Department of Communication
Sciences and Disorders

West Chester University

Dr. Cheryl D. Gunter, Chair
201 Carter Drive, Suite 400
West Chester, PA  19383
Phone:  610.436.2115
Fax:  610.436.3388
cgunter@wcupa.edu


Child Research Lab (CRL)

Research activities through the Child Research Laboratory (CRL) are focused on applied research areas including development of innovative approaches to early assessment and intervention for vulnerable infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. One area of ongoing work includes a series of longitudinal studies of the links between children’s oral language, literacy skill development, and parental influences. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), that is, a national dataset, multiple variables of children’s oral language skills (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, narration), literacy development (e.g., alphabet knowledge, letter-sound naming, print convention), and parental influences (e.g., shared-book reading activities, verbal responsivity, telling stories) as well as their complex relationships have been investigated.

Initial analyses indicate that preschoolers’ receptive and expressive vocabulary skills measured at age four are the key factor directly contributing to their pre-literacy skills after controlling for children’s sex, race/ethnicity, IQ scores, family SES, and status of regular care. It is also suggested that early vocabulary scores and parental book reading are the predictors of preschoolers’ pre-literacy skills. We are continuing to evaluate this finding in order to more precisely define the complex relationships between parental influences and children’s oral and literacy development and their changes over time.

The second area of investigation is designed to examine whether early intervention providers’ strategies for encouraging caregiver participation (e.g., coaching, modeling, praising, and accepting ideas) differ between home visits and center-based individual sessions and determine whether a relationship exists between specific provider strategies and children’s developmental outcomes. Initial findings indicate that EI providers do not engage in any evidence-based or recommended strategies with high frequency, irrespective of setting. There are no significant differences between the center-based providers versus home visitors, suggesting that the location of intervention does not affect the practices in which providers engage.

The third area of investigation focuses on adaptations, including assistive technology and Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices, especially iPad and applications, to promote learning opportunities for young children. The first line of research is designed to examine the effect of iPad and its application “ITakeTurns” on turn-taking behaviors in preschoolers with autism. Due to its affordability, accessibility, and popularity, researchers and practitioners in the field of speech-language pathology focus on iPad as a new intervention tool.

Although there are a variety of iPad applications available for the assessment and intervention in the field of speech-language pathology, empirical data-driven evidence that supports the efficacy of these new tools is rarely accumulated at this time. The present study will be one of the very first investigations that establish groundwork for future randomized controlled research to determine the effectiveness of iPad application in the young population with autism.

For more information about research protocols and findings please contact the CRL principal investigator, Dr. Sojung Kim: skim@wcupa.edu