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A woman interacting with an infant child using objects

A new research study has revealed why some children may be slower to learn words than others.

The research has been led by Dr Larissa Samuelson at University of East Anglia in collaboration with Assistant Professor Samuel Forbes from our top-rated Psychology Department and researchers from Augustana College, Illinois (US).

Child language development

The research team studied how 66 children aged between 17 and 31 months learn new words in a simple game.

The aim of the research was to determine if there is any connection between early child language development and being able to identify words with everyday objects. Importantly, they also wanted to determine whether it’s possible to identify any risk of language delay earlier in a child’s life.

Vocabulary and gaze

As part of the study, toddlers were shown new objects made from clay, plaster, Styrofoam, yarn, and plastic mesh. The researchers then told the children the names of the new objects and asked them what other things can also be called by that name.

Crucially, the team filmed where the children were looking throughout the game. They were then able to watch it back frame-by-frame to see where the toddlers were looking before and after they were presented with a new object.

Early recognition

The study found that children who can say more words quickly looked towards objects that were the same shape as a named object. While children who knew fewer words looked back and forth between the objects and took more time.

By understanding this phenomenon more intricately, the team hope this new research will help identify children who are more at risk of Developmental Language Disorder much earlier in their infancy and allow earlier support to build their best vocabulary before starting school.

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