Early Learning Center

Research Projects Conducted at the ELC


  1. Assessing the comprehension of language in 2 year olds using touch screen technology – Baby QUILS
    • Roberta Golinkoff, Unidel Rodney H, Sharp Professor of Education
    • School Of Education
    • Lab Manager: Hannah Puttre

As language is foundational to all areas of human development, the early identification of children at risk for language delays can potentially alter their academic, life, and health outcomes. This project seeks to create a touchscreen language assessment for toddlers that meets this urgent need. We aim to create an evidence-based, state-of the-art, automatically scored, 40-item language assessment for children between 20 and 40 months of age. Such a tool will not only provide a window onto children’s language growth for research purposes, but also an early warning system that can be used in schools and point to appropriate language interventions.

  1. Smart Wearable Systems to Support and Measure Movement in Individuals With and Without Mobility Impairments
    • Michele A. Lobo, PT, PhD, Assistant Professor
    • Physical Therapy

The purpose of this study is to see if a shirt with soft stretch sensors can be used to accurately measure movement and activity for children. The first part of the project will involve 3-30 year-old participants from the ELC and general community to see if the shirt accurately tracks movement for kids without movement impairments. We will also see if the shirt accurately tracks movement when the shirt has elastic bands that make it a little harder to lift the arms, simulating movement difficulty. This will help us prepare for the second phase of the project that will use the garment sensors to track movement activity for children with arm movement impairments when those children have the opportunity to use a shirt with air pockets aimed at assisting their arm movement.


  1. Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Cues in Young Children’s Categorization – Language and Categorization in Children
    • Anna Papfragou, Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences; Professor, Linguistics & Cognitive Science
    • Sarah Fairchild; PhD student and Ariel Mathis PhD student

Adults and children generally treat objects with the same name, or label, as belonging together. For adults, it is assumed that labels are treated as category markers, while reasons underlying children’s behavior is debated. Some argue that children also treat labels as category markers, while others have hypothesized that labels serve only to increase the overall perceptual similarity of objects. We test these two possibilities by manipulating the visual similarity and shared cue (label or non-linguistic cue) of novel objects and observing children’s categorization decisions. If children treat labels as category markers, we should see that labels more heavily influence children’s behavior than non-linguistic cues (patterned frames, in this case) or visual similarity. The results of the present study contribute to ongoing debates in the literature concerning the development of the interface between language and cognition.

  1. (Recently Completed) Events, typicality and listener needs in referential communication – Instruments
    • Myrto Grigoroglou, PhD Candidate
    • Department of Linguistics & Cognitive Science

Do children adjust their utterances to their addressee’s needs?  Such an ability is crucial for human communication, but young children often fail to offer the appropriate amount of information based on what their addressees know or don’t know. Participation in this study involves the child hearing information and answering questions about pictures or videos. Children often find participation to be fun, and treat it as a new game.  Finding s form this line of work contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying children’s communicative capacities.

  1. Language Learning and STEM Outcomes – English Language Learners
    • Amanda Owen Van Horne, Associate Professor and Maura Curran, PhD, CCC-SLP, Research Associate

The language used in communication and teaching of science is filled with abstract words and complex grammatical structures; thus, science learning may be especially difficult for students with specific language learning disabilities. This pilot study will involve typically developing children who are learning English as a second language. The goal of the clinical trial will be to test the potential for early intervention programs to improve learning and generalization of science concepts in preschool and kindergarten-aged children with language learning impairments. This goal of this study is to validate curriculum adaptations for use in the later clinical trial.