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Ask A REL Response

November 2018


What research has been conducted on effective practices for families working with babies and toddlers (birth to age 3) to foster language development?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on effective practices for families working with babies and toddlers (birth to age 3) to foster language development. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed effective practices for families working with babies and toddlers (birth to age 3) to foster language development. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Akamoglu, Y., & Dinnebeil, L. (2017). Coaching parents to use naturalistic language and communication strategies. Young Exceptional Children, 20(1), 41-50.
    From the abstract: "Naturalistic language and communication strategies (i.e., naturalistic teaching strategies) refer to practices that are used to promote the child's language and communication skills either through verbal (e.g., spoken words) or nonverbal (e.g., gestures, signs) interactions between an adult (e.g., parent, teacher) and a child. Use of naturalistic teaching strategies (NT strategies) allows parents to promote their child's language through authentic learning experiences. This article describes specific coaching strategies to guide early intervention (EI) practitioners who support families of young children with developmental delays and disabilities to use NT strategies. The coaching process and strategies delineated in this article are drawn from the previous research and based on the authors' experiences in coaching families and professionals in the field of EI (Friedman, Woods, & Salisbury, 2012; Hanft et al., 2004, Rush & Shelden, 2008; Rush, Shelden, & Hanft, 2003). Guided by the general coaching components and principles, a practitioner can coach a parent to use NT strategies by going through the six coaching strategies described in this article."
  2. Brown, J. A., & Woods, J. J. (2016). Parent-implemented communication intervention: Sequential analysis of triadic relationships. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 36(2), 115-124.
    From the abstract: "Collaboration with parents and caregivers to support young children's communication development is an important component to early intervention services. Coaching parents to implement communication support strategies is increasingly common in parent-implemented interventions, but few studies examine the process as well as the outcomes. We explored the triadic relationships between interventionist, parent, and child within a parent-implemented communication for toddlers with Down syndrome (DS), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or developmental delays (DD). Time-window sequential analyses revealed that parents were more likely to use communication strategies during or immediately following coaching strategies that encouraged the parents' active role. Children were more likely to use targeted communication skills immediately following responsive parent interactions. Intervention occurred in similar frequencies across play and non-play routine contexts. This analysis provides preliminary information on understanding potential mediating variables in parent-implemented interventions. Implications for increasing parent capacity-building and child outcomes through coaching are discussed."
  3. DesJardin, J. L., Doll, E. R., Stika, C. J., Eisenberg, L. S., Johnson, K. J., Ganguly, D. H., Colson, B. G., & Henning, S. C. (2014). Parental support for language development during joint book reading for young children with hearing loss. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 35(3), 167-181.
    From the abstract: "Parent and child joint book reading (JBR) characteristics and parent facilitative language techniques (FLTs) were investigated in two groups of parents and their young children; children with normal hearing (NH; "n" = 60) and children with hearing loss (HL; "n" = 45). Parent-child dyads were videotaped during JBR interactions, and parent and child behaviors were coded for specific JBR behaviors using a scale developed for this study. Children's oral language skills were assessed using the "Preschool Language Scale-4" (PLS-4). Parents of children with HL scored higher on two of the four subscales of JBR: Literacy Strategies and Teacher Techniques. Parents of children with NH utilized higher level FLTs with their children who had higher language skills. Higher level FLTs were positively related to children's oral language abilities. Implications are discussed for professionals who work with families of very young children with HL."
  4. Green, K. B., Towson, J, A., Head, C., Janowski, B., & Smith, L. (2018). Facilitated playgroups to promote speech and language skills of young children with communication delays: A pilot study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 34(1), 37-52.
    From the abstract: "Family-centered practices that build caregiver capacity are a central focus of early intervention services for young children with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of adapting the "Parents Interacting with Infants" (PIWI) facilitated playgroup model to target effective communication strategies for parents of young children with communication delays. A concurrent multiple baseline across behaviors design with three parent-child dyads was used to determine the effects of the weekly facilitated playgroup model on parents' successful implementation of communicative strategies and the effects on the children's communication behaviors. Visual analysis revealed a functional relationship between the seven-week intervention and an increase in parent and child outcomes. Results support the feasibility of using a facilitated playgroup model to enhance parents' ability to implement effective communication strategies with their children. Clinical implications and future directions for research are discussed."
  5. Honig, A.S. (2017). Language insights for caregivers with young children. Early child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 527-541.
    From the abstract: "How to help babies and young children right from birth to become competent in talking as well as emergent literacy is illustrated by research findings as well as with specific clinical stories. Both kinds of knowledge can serve to galvanize parents and teachers to increase awareness of infant and preschool language development and the crucial role of caregivers in providing richly varied, focused, and effective ways to enhance children's early language skills."
  6. McGillion, M., Pine, J. M., Herbert, J. S., & Matthews, D. (2017). A randomised controlled trial to test the effect of promoting caregiver contingent talk on language development in infants from diverse socioeconomic status backgrounds. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(10), 1122-1131.
    From the abstract: "Background: Early language skills are critical for later academic success. Lower socioeconomic status (SES) children tend to start school with limited language skills compared to advantaged peers. We test the hypothesis that this is due in part to differences in caregiver contingent talk during infancy (how often the caregiver talks about what is in the focus of the infant's attention). Methods: In a randomised controlled trial with high and low SES families, 142 11-month olds and their caregivers were randomly allocated to either a contingent talk intervention or a dental health control. Families in the language intervention watched a video about contingent talk and were asked to practise it for 15 min a day for a month. Caregiver communication was assessed at baseline and after 1 month. Infant communication was assessed at baseline, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months. Results: At baseline, social gradients were observed in caregiver contingent talk to their 11-month olds (but not in infant communication). At posttest, when infants were 12 months old, caregivers across the SES spectrum who had been allocated to the language intervention group engaged in significantly more contingent talk. Lower SES caregivers in this intervention group also reported that their children produced significantly more words at 15 and 18 months. Effects of the intervention did not persist at 24 months. Instead expressive vocabulary at this age was best predicted by baseline infant communication, baseline contingent talk and SES. Conclusions: A social gradient in children's communication emerges during the second year of life. A lowintensity intervention demonstrated that it is possible to increase caregiver contingent talk and that this is effective in promoting vocabulary growth for lower SES infants in the short term. However, these effects are not long-lasting, suggesting that follow-up interventions may be necessary to yield benefits lasting to school entry."
  7. Moore, H. W., Barton, E. E., & Chironis, M. (2014). A program for improving toddler communication through parent coaching. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(4), 212-224.
    From the abstract: "The purpose of this manuscript was to describe a community-based program, Language and Play Everyday (LAPE), aimed at evaluating effective practices for enhancing parents' capacity to increase their toddlers' communication skills. LAPE was a parent education program focused on coaching parents to embed naturalistic language-enhancing strategies within daily routines. Participants included eight families of toddlers with expressive communication delays ranging in age from 22 to 36 months. LAPE was delivered using group and individual sessions. After participating in the program, parents increased their responsivity and use of other language-enhancing behaviors. Social validity measures indicated that parents were satisfied with procedures, goals, and outcomes of the project. Moreover, children improved their expressive language skills. Implications for future research and application are discussed."
  8. Roberts, M. Y., Kaiser, A. P., Wolfe, C. E., Bryant, J. D., & Spidalieri, A. M. (2014). Effects of the teach-model-coach-review instructional approach on caregiver use of language support strategies and children's expressive language skills. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57(5), 1851-1869.
    From the abstract: "Purpose: In this study, the authors examined the effects of the Teach-Model-Coach-Review instructional approach on caregivers' use of four enhanced milieu teaching (EMT) language support strategies and on their children's use of expressive language. Method: Four caregiver-child dyads participated in a single-subject, multiplebaseline study. Children were between 24 and 42 months of age and had language impairment. Interventionists used the Teach-Model-Coach-Review instructional approach to teach caregivers to use matched turns, expansions, time delays, and milieu teaching prompts during 24 individualized clinic sessions. Caregiver use of each EMT language support strategy and child use of communication targets were the dependent variables. Results: The caregivers demonstrated increases in their use of each EMT language support strategy after instruction. Generalization and maintenance of strategy use to the home was limited, indicating that teaching across routines is necessary to achieve maximal outcomes. All children demonstrated gains in their use of communication targets and in their performance on norm-referenced measures of language. Conclusion: The results indicate that the Teach-Model-Coach-Review instructional approach resulted in increased use of EMT language support strategies by caregivers. Caregiver use of these strategies was associated with positive changes in child language skills."
  9. Roberts, M. Y., & Kaiser, A. P. (2011). The effectiveness of parent-implemented language interventions: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20(3), 180-199.
    From the abstract: "Purpose: The purpose of this meta-analysis was to systematically evaluate the effects of parent-implemented language interventions on the language skills of children between 18 and 60 months of age with primary and secondary language impairments. Method: A systematic literature search yielded 18 studies that met the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Effect sizes for each study were calculated for 7 language outcome variables and analyzed using a random effects model. Separate analyses were conducted for each language outcome and for each comparison group. Outcomes were compared for children with and without intellectual disabilities and for parent report and direct observational language measures. Results: The results indicate that parent-implemented language interventions have a significant, positive impact on receptive and expressive language skills of children with and without intellectual disabilities. Effect sizes (g) for child measures ranged from -0.15 to 0.82 depending on the outcome measure and comparison group. Conclusion: The results of this review indicate that parent-implemented language interventions are an effective approach to early language intervention for young children with language impairments. Critical features of parent-implemented interventions are discussed in terms of implications for practice and future research. (Contains 8 tables and 3 figures.)"
  10. Snodgrass, M. R., Chung, M. Y., Biller, M. F., Appel, K. E., Meadan, H., & Halle, J. W. (2017). telepractice in speech-language therapy: The use of online technologies for parent training and coaching. Communications Disorders Quarterly, 38(4), 242-254.
    From the abstract: "Researchers and practitioners have found that telepractice is an effective means of increasing access to high-quality services that meet children's unique needs and is a viable mechanism to deliver speech-language services for multiple purposes. We offer a framework to facilitate the implementation of practices that are used in direct speech-language therapy into parent training and coaching. We overlay the use of telepractice onto parent training and coaching to provide a framework that guides the conversion of practices used in direct service to parent training and coaching programs that can be used via telepractice. We include recommendations for addressing common challenges to providing parent training and coaching via telepractice with an example of the framework's application in Early Intervention. Using this framework, speechlanguage pathologists can combine telepractice with direct services by teaching and coaching parents in the use of strategies to improve their children's communication skills."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • language development, birth to year 3, parent strategies
  • communication strategies, parents, birth to three year olds
  • caregiver role, language acquisition

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.