Written Language Laboratory
For many children, learning to read and write is very difficult. The overall goal of the Written Language Lab at Boys Town National Research Hospital is to better understand how language and hearing impact children's ability to learn to read and write, and to use this understanding to improve language and literacy instruction and intervention.
What Do We Study?
We are interested in how language and hearing intersect to support literacy learning; therefore, we focus on two primary groups of children: children who are deaf and hard of hearing and children with developmental language disorder.
We study how early language and emergent literacy skills develop in children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and how these skills impact later literacy learning. Many children who are deaf and hard of hearing will have difficulties when learning to read and write. We have identified several precursors of literacy before children enter kindergarten, and our goal is to develop early interventions that will ultimately prevent literacy difficulties for these children. Children who are deaf and hard of hearing may have difficulties developing vocabulary, grammar, and early reading skills, and we work on developing evidence-based interventions in these areas that may be implemented by parents, teachers, or speech-language pathologists.
We also study literacy difficulties in children with developmental language disorder. Fewer than 30% of children with developmental language disorder have been diagnosed by kindergarten entry, and most children with developmental language disorder will go on to have difficulties learning to read and write. Our previous work has shown specific types of literacy errors made by children with developmental language disorder and identified a reading task that is quite difficult for them. Our current focus is to develop a language screening assessment that can be implemented by teachers and other school personnel to identify which children in their classrooms need to be referred for further language testing by a speech-language pathologist.