Motor Speech Disorders Laboratory UW


Directors: Lesley B. Olswang and Truman E. Coggins
The Child Language Laboratory is dedicated to conducting applied research related to communication from birth through young adulthood. The focus is on verbal and nonverbal communication, and the clinical processes of assessment and intervention. The research projects conducted by students and faculty emphasize the form, content, and use of communication. Nonverbal communication research examines gestures, eye gaze and augmentative communication strategies used from birth through young adulthood. Verbal communication research examines semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Assessment and intervention research primarily focuses on the role of context as it affects performance, ranging from naturalistic observation to highly structured dynamic assessment. The projects listed below will provide an overview of the nature of the research conducted by faculty and students. Research Faculty include: Drs. Lesley B. Olswang, Truman E. Coggins, and Patricia Dowden.
Early Signals of Communication
Assessment and treatment of nonverbal and verbal communication in children birth to two, with and without impairments, and young adults with severe, profound developmental disabilities. The focus of the infant research is on gestures and eye gaze as early prelinguistic signals, and the transition to symbolic communication. The focus of the young adult research is on idiosyncratic behaviors used in communicative interactions.
Currently, this research is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) via a Program Project that brings together researchers from the University of Kansas and the University of Washington. To read more about the infant portion of this grant, please follow this link - Treatment of Triadic Eye Gaze.
Understanding Social Communication in Preschool and School Age Children
Research in this laboratory has been examining assessment of social communication skills in context, with the view that context drives the nature of the social interaction. Context has been viewed along a continuum from authentic and functional to structured and contrived. Research has included the following:
  • Examination of joint attention and prosocial behaviors (helping, comforting) during naturalistic activities
  • Examination of discourse narratives and different coding systems for documenting social/linguistic deficits.
  • Examination of social discourse in the home in relationship to the development of complex syntax, and in turn to false belief understanding.
  • Observation in naturalistic/school settings of children diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, language disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, including researcher and teacher perspectives.
  • Comparison of static versus dynamic assessment, investigating how cues prompt performance.

Research thus far has focused on preschool and school-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Specific Language Impairment, and typical development.