An infant-led intervention to encourage vocalisations and facilitate word learning

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Join us for an in-person talk on Tuesday 2nd May 2023 (11am UK time - in-person & via Zoom). Prof Tamar Keren-Portnoy (University of York) will talk about Infant-led intervention to encourage vocalisations and facilitate word learning.

Abstract: What do infants learn from their own output, and in particular, from their experience as the producers of language-like sounds through babbling? Can we harness this type of learning to improve language outcomes for infants from populations that are typically delayed in their lexical learning relative to typically developing mid-socioeconomic (SES) infants, such as infants from low SES families (Law et al., 2017) and infants with Down Syndrome (Zampini & D'Odorico, 2013)?

Past research has shown that (1) articulatory gestures influence audio-visual speech perception and sound discrimination (e.g., Yeung & Werker, 2013; Choi et al., 2019), (2) familiarity with sound production affects attention to speech sounds (DePaolis et al., 2011), (3) production practice facilitates word learning and phonological memory (McCune & Vihman, 2001, McGillion et al., 2017, Keren-Portnoy el al., 2010).

These findings suggest that encouraging more or earlier sound production, especially babble, in infants, might be beneficial for their later language development. But in order to experimentally test the specific influence of the increase in vocalising on later language, we need a way to increase vocalisations without the intervention also targeting an increase in interaction. That is why our intervention is targeted at the infants, not at their parents or carers, and aims to increase infant vocalising directly, not through a change in adult-infant interaction.   

I will present very preliminary data from two pilot studies still in progress, with two populations that tend to have delayed language: infants from low SES families (Keren-Portnoy, Daffern, Kanaan & DePaolis, in prep.) and infants with Down Syndrome (Keren-Portnoy, Arshad, Buckley, Burgoyne, Daffern, Kanaan, in prep.). Both these studies make use of an app, BabblePlay, designed to encourage vocalising in infants (Daffern et al., 2020, Keren-Portnoy et al., 2021).

How to join the seminar: This seminar will take place in person at the University of Manchester, but we will provide a blended approach for anyone who is unable to attend in person. As always the seminar is free to attend & booking isn't required, just get in touch to request the zoom link and don't forget to join the seminar mailing list

Where to find us: University of Manchester A7 Samuel Alexander Building. The Samuel Alexander Building is number 67 on the campus map. A7 is located on the ground floor of the Classics wing of the Samuel Alexander Building, this is the wing facing the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons.   

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