Do COVID babies “talk” less? Research findings and potential implications
Duration: 59 minutes
Independent studies from researchers at LENA and at Brown University have arrived at remarkably similar and stark findings: Babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic are vocalizing less and experiencing less interactive talk with adults than their pre-pandemic peers, suggesting they may be at greater risk of experiencing language delays.
In August of 2021, Dr. Sean Deoni, Associate Professor of Diagnostic Imaging and Pediatrics at Brown University, and Principal Investigator at the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab, posted a pre-print of a paper suggesting that “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic.”
The results of that study, now under review at the journal JAMA Pediatrics, prompted him to ask a fundamental question: Why?
Looking for an answer, Dr. Deoni used LENA technology to capture detailed data on children’s language environments, hypothesizing that the reduced quality of those environments may be a root cause of COVID-related developmental delays.
At the same time, Dr. Jill Gilkerson, LENA’s Chief Research and Evaluation Officer, was digging into what LENA data could tell us about COVID-era language environments. Her team found that, namely, child vocalizations and conversational turn have decreased significantly among infants born nine months into the pandemic.
Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, Vice President of National Policy at Start Early, was originally scheduled to moderate this discussion but was unable to attend.
About Sean Deoni:
Dr. Sean Deoni is Associate Professor of Diagnostic Imaging and Pediatrics at Brown University. He is the Principal Investigator at the Advanced Baby Imaging Lab, which started at Brown University in 2009 and is now housed within Hasbro Children's and Rhode Island Hospital. He has developed and applied neuroimaging methods to characterize development trajectories in healthy neurotypically developing children as well as in the context of poverty and adversity nutritional deficits and early intellectual and developmental disorders.
About Jill Gilkerson:
Dr. Jill Gilkerson is the Chief Research and Evaluation Officer at LENA and leads all research and analysis activities. She manages a team of researchers responsible for collecting and analyzing the spontaneous speech data used for software development, the LENA normative scales, and a wide range of academic research studies.