ISU Headlines

ISU Infant Vocal Development Lab hopes to find earlier intervention of language disorders; volunteers needed

Posted June 13, 2014

“Bah-bah-bah.” “Ah.” “Eww.” “Gaa.”

The sounds infants make and caregivers’ report of their interactions with babies are the focus of the new Idaho State University Infant Vocal Development Laboratory, where researchers will be studying the sounds made by infants from 7 to 18 months of age, and the infants’ interactions with caregivers.

The focus of the new lab is to lay the groundwork for deeper understanding of speech and language development, and perhaps make possible the early detection and treatment of disorders.

ISU Assistant Professor Heather Ramsdell-Hudock with Maycee Miller.“It’s fun, it’s babies,” said Heather Ramsdell-Hudock, speech-language pathology assistant professor, who runs the new lab. “Our primary focus is caregiver report of infant vocalizations.”

The infants’ sounds, as perceived by caregivers, are expected to provide researchers with the ability to translate their findings into clinical practice more efficiently than in the past.

In a new study, Ramsdell-Hudock and graduate students will track the vocal development in infants who are at risk for future speech and/or language delay or disorder. These infants include those who have experienced pre- and/or perinatal problems; ear, nose, and throat problems; swallowing/sucking problems; and/or family history of speech and/or language problems prior to 7 months of age.

Breanna Castle, background in black dress, and Diana Williams, both masters students in the speech pathology department, operate equipment in observation room of the lab.Recordings in the laboratory will take place once every month. Parents of the infants are significantly involved in the research, as they interact with their baby, and provide information to the researchers.

“We’re looking for volunteers to come in once a month for an hour for 12 to 14 months,” Ramsdell-Hudock said. “It is a wonderful opportunity for parents to interact with their new baby in a positive environment, while learning about his or her vocalizations and language development throughout the first two years of life.”

The new lab provides a state-of-the art infant and child recording suite consisting of a nursery/playroom and a control room. The nursery lab is filled with colored blocks, books, and stuffed toys – so parents and children can eat, nap, play – do whatever they do at home. The nursery is also a recording room that has eight cameras partially hidden by stuffed Bengal tigers and mounted strategically throughout the room. Audio and video are captured in the adjacent control room where researchers will observe the study participants and the camera recordings.

Stuffed animal and lab camera.“There are any number of spin-off studies we’re looking at,” Ramsdell-Hudock said. “This lab was created through startup funds provided by our department and the ISU Division of Health Sciences. Internal startup funds are essential for helping new investigators, like myself, get established, so that we can pursue external funding for future studies.”

People interested in participating in this study with their child, or who would like more information, can contact Ramsdell-Hudock at 208-282-3077 or ramsdell@isu.edu. Participants are compensated for their time.