Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween from your team at Chatterboxes!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Toddlers Improve Language Development through Block-play

A toddler who plays with blocks may experience improved language development if he/she comes from a middle or low income family, according an article in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (JAMA/Archives), October issue.

The writers explain "Early childhood represents a critical period in the development of young minds. The newborn brain triples in size between birth and 2 years of age. The long-standing presumption has been that certain activities during this period promote optimal development and that others may hinder it."

Imaginative play can help a child's memory development; it can also develop the roots of impulse control and language development, say the authors. Although an enormous number of toys make claims regarding a child's cognitive development, the majority of these claims are unproven.

Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H, University of Washington, Seattle and the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, and team carried out a pilot study with 175 children, aged 1.5 to 2.5 years. 88 of those children were sent two sets of building blocks, plus two newsletters which offered suggestions for parents about activities the families could do with the blocks. The other 87 children were not sent any blocks until the study had been completed.

The parents had been told that they were taking part in a study of child time use. They filled in a questionnaire about basic demographic information at the start of the study. They provided time diaries that monitored their child's activities during two 24-hour periods during the trial. Six months after the study had started the parents filled in another questionnaire by phone - this included evaluations of their child's language skills and attention.

53% (92) of the families completed at least one diary entry. Exit interviews were completed by 80% (140) of the families. 59% (52) of families which received two sets of blocks reported block-play in their diaries, compared to 13% (11) from the other group.

The authors wrote "In this pilot study, we found that distributing blocks was associated with significantly higher language scores in a sample of middle- and low-income children."

The researchers found that the children who had received blocks had an average language assessment score 15% higher than the other children, indicating that a program that distributes blocks could be effective in boosting development. The scientists also reported that as far as attention scores were concerned, the two groups had similar scores.

The researchers suggest that block play may be replacing other forms of times use which do not encourage language development, such as watching TV.

The writers added "Further study (including laboratory assessments) to corroborate these findings and to explore whether attentional capacity could be significantly improved given a larger sample is warranted."

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(10):967-971

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gene Associated With Language, Speech And Reading Disorders Identified

ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2009) — A new candidate gene for Specific Language Impairment has been identified by a research team directed by Mabel Rice at the University of Kansas, in collaboration with Shelley Smith, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Javier Gayán of Neocodex, Seville, Spain.

The finding, reported in the current issue of the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, was discovered by examining genes previously identified as candidate genes for reading impairments or speech sound disorders.

The results point toward the likelihood of multiple genes contributing to language impairment, some of which also contribute to reading or speech impairment.

A gene on Chromosome 6 – KIAA0319 – was associated with variability in language abilities in a study of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and their family members, as well as with variability in speech and reading abilities. Children with SLI who were selected for the study had no hearing loss, general intellectual deficit or autism.

Language ability involves vocabulary and grammar, whereas speech involves the accuracy of sound production. Both language and speech ability contribute to a child's ability to read. The finding that a candidate gene could influence all three abilities suggests a common pathway that could contribute to overlapping strengths or deficiencies across speech, language and reading.

According to Rice, "We don't understand the biological mechanisms yet but it's important that we have identified the first gene that could be involved across these three different dimensions of development."

Previous research has established that Chromosome 6 is among those that are linked to Speech Sounds Disorder (SSD) and Reading Disability/Dyslexia (RD). Rice said the findings are consistent with numerous reports documenting that language impairments and reading disability often co-exist.

The study involved 322 individuals, including children with SLI, their parents, siblings, and other family members. "We have come to realize that language really sets the platform for reading to emerge and to thrive," Rice added. "Without a solid language system, it's much harder to get reading going."

The study is part of a 20-year research program conducted by Rice, who is the Fred and Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies and director of the Center for Biobehavioral Neurosciences in Communication Disorders at KU's Life Span Institute. Co-investigators on the genetics project were Shelley Smith, professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics and the Munroe Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Javier Gayán, Head of the Analysis Group at Neocodex, in Seville, Spain. Neocodex is a research company that specializes in genomics analysis.

Funding for Rice's research comes from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one of the National Institutes of Health.***