Looking at Language places the Institute at the forefront of research in language and literacy worldwide. Our approach and our research crosses a multitude of disciplines and sits within a number of the Institute's Research Focus Areas.
The study combines epidemiological, behaviour genetics and molecular genetics methods to study language development, language impairment, reading and reading impairment from infancy to adolescence.
This internationally unique study is following the language development of more than 2000 WA children from 2-14 years. It is the world's only study to conduct such detailed assessment of language and literacy development from infancy through the formative adolescent years. For the Institute, the ability to have followed the study children through early adolescence is ground-breaking. It is vitally important that we understand the developmental course of language and literacy from infancy and what different trajectories mean for young people's opportunities at school and beyond. Data collection for this project is based entirely in WA and involved 5000 children and families overall.
The study has received 15 years of continuous funding from the USA National Institutes (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders). The project is a joint initiative between the Telethon Kids Institute and UWA and the USA's University of Kansas and University of Nebraska Medical Centre. Study participants and data collection were based in Western Australia.
LOOKING at Language addresses two priority areas for language development in children:
Determining factors that contribute to or cause normal and disordered communication; and
Developing and refining diagnostic criteria to facilitate early diagnosis of communication disorders.
Knowledge about genetic and environmental pathways to language disorders and reading disorders will translate to improved early identification of children at risk for language and reading disorders and improved service provision for children in the health and education sectors.
LOOKING at Language began as a 5-year study (2002-2007) of language development from 2-6 years of age, funded by the USA National Institutes of Health. In July 2007, the study was funded by the USA National Institutes of Health for a further 5 years (2007 - 2012), allowing us to study children from 2-9 years. The additional funding enables us to continue our study for a final 5 years (2012 - 2017) allowing us to study children from 2-14 years and further our research into the vital early years of school and to begin molecular genetic studies of language, speech and reading disorders. The project conducts in-depth and comprehensive assessments of language development at 2, 4, 6, 9 and 14 years and literacy skills at 6, 9 and 14 years. These ages are benchmarked to the critical early learning years between kindergarten and Year 3.
Results so far for single-born children, point toward characteristics of the child as important predictors of language delay at 2 years and away from characteristics of the child's family environment, such as the mother's level of education, income or parenting style. One family factor that was important was whether or not anyone else in the family had a history of language delay. Our results show that most children (80%) with early language delay catch up by school age. However, 20% of the children we studied did not catch up. Our research will help explain why some children struggle with language development and later with reading.
The data collection phase of the Looking at Language study finished in June 2017.
Our researchers are currently working hard to analyse the data.
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