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Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language
The Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language is an international collaboration of child language experts. It uses the latest approaches in molecular genetics, neuro-imaging, epidemiology, biostatistics and health economics to investigate factors that affect and improve child language and development.
Why research child language?
Language impairment is common.
One in five children under five have difficulties understanding what is said to them and/or expressing themselves.
Language impairment has persistent and far-reaching consequences.
Children with a language impairment struggle to make and keep friends, regulate their behaviour and negotiate new experiences. They face poorer educational, employment and mental health outcomes and are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour and criminal activity. This affects us all through increased welfare burdens and reduced national productivity.
Elevating child language to an issue that is core to the health of nations is central to the CRE’s vision. By 2017, the CRE will have created the world’s largest harmonised language repository, bringing language into the lexicon of non-communicable disease and population health. This language repository will provide an unprecedented opportunity to analyse how language develops, what goes wrong, what this costs for families and society, and when and how to intervene.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language brings together leading researchers across Australia and the UK. These experts include:
Professor Sheena Reilly
Sheena is the Director of the Menzies Health Institute in Queensland. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Sheena leads a series of cross-disciplinary studies that focus on identifying the social, demographic and/or family factors that explain common speech and language problems. She is the principal investigator in the Early Language in Victoria Study, as well as a chief investigator on the Language for Learning study. In 2009 she was made a Fellow of the UK Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists; in 2010 a Fellow of Speech Pathology Australia; and, in 2011, elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Sheena has attracted significant competitive funding including NHMRC Practitioner Fellowships and other grants from the NHMRC, ARC and NIH.
Professor Melissa Wake
Melissa is a consultant paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and senior researcher at the Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Her research focuses on ‘population paediatrics’ – identifying which factors are essential in care systems to make a difference to children’s health and development. Melissa is a chief investigator on the Early Language in Victoria Study, and she also leads the Child Health CheckPoint part of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Melissa is an investigator on 20 randomised trials, including Language for Learning and Memory Maestros. Melissa has received many awards including the Australian Health Minister's Prize for Excellence in Health and Medical Research in 2009, and back-to-back NHMRC Excellence Awards (2009-12, 2013-16) as the top-ranked Fellow in Australia.
Professor James Law
Speech and Language Therapist
James is Professor of Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle University in England. His research focuses on evidence-based treatments or interventions for speech and language problems, and the long-term outcomes for children with language impairment. James leads the outcomes and trajectories stream of the CRE in Child Language. Throughout his 20-year research career, James has been an investigator on over £4m of grants, including the UK’s Better Communication Research Programme (£1.5m).
Associate Professor Angela Morgan
Speech Pathologist and Speech Neuroscientist
Angela is a senior researcher and leader of the Hearing, Language and Literacy group at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. She is also an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on speech disorders and in particular the neural and genetic factors that underpin these disorders. Angela leads the neurobiological stream of the CRE in Child Language and is passionate about precision in speech and language phenotyping. She is chief investigator on the Genetics of Speech Disorders study.Angela has trained and worked overseas, and her work has been cited in key guideline and policy documents in both the US and the UK. She has received many awards including the Elizabeth Usher Memorial Prize in 2012 and an NHMRC Achievement Award in 2010 for being the top-ranked fellow in the Career Development Award scheme.
Dr Fiona Mensah
Fiona is a senior researcher at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne. Fiona’s expertise is in biostatistics and social policy. Her work involves calculating how reliable and meaningful research findings are, and distinguishing between those factors that cause a language or speech condition, and those which are unrelated but occur at the same time. She is a chief investigator on the Early Language in Victoria Study, Memory Maestros and Language for Learning. Fiona also contributes her expertise to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
Professor Jan Nicholson
Jan is the Inaugural Robert Holmes Professor and head of the Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program at La Trobe University and honorary Principal Research Fellow at Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Jan’s research examines family and social influences on parents and children, with a particular focus on vulnerable families. She was co-investigator on the Early Home Learning Study, which examined strategies disadvantaged parents could use to create a rich home learning environment. She has an NHMRC Partnerships grant to run the Early Home Learning Study at School. Jan is also an advisor to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
Associate Professor Lisa Gold
Lisa is a senior researcher at Deakin University where she leads research in the economics of maternal and child health. Her area of expertise is in the economic evaluation of treatments or interventions designed to improve population health and reduce health inequalities. Lisa’s current work focuses on a range of public health interventions in maternal and child health, including early language development support. She is a chief investigator on the Early Language in Victoria Study, Language for Learning, Memory Maestros and the Classroom Promotion of Oral Language.
Professor Sharon Goldfeld
Sharon is a paediatrician at The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne and a senior researcher at the Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health. She co-leads the Policy, Equity and Translation group at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. As the former Chief Medical Officer of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Sharon has a developed understanding of the Victorian health and education system and a keen interest in the translation of research into practice. She heads up the Classroom Promotion of Oral Language study and is a chief investigator on the Language for Learning study.
Our Research Partners
- The Murdoch Children's Research Institute
- Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University
- The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
- The University of Melbourne
- Newcastle University, UK
- Deakin University
- La Trobe University
Policy, Practice and Implementation Committee
The Centre works closely with a Policy, Practice and Implementation Committee made up of policy experts from the education and health sectors. It provides an opportunity for two-way knowledge exchange between researchers and policy makers, to ensure that the Centre’s research questions reflect current policy and practice priorities.
The Committee is chaired by Sara Glover, Director of Education Policy at the Mitchell Institute, and includes members from:
- Department of Education and Training (Victoria)
- Department of Health (Victoria)
- Catholic Education Melbourne
- Inner North West Melbourne Medicare
- Victorian Principals Association
- Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
Early Language in Victoria Study (ELVS)
The Early Language in Victoria Study (ELVS) aims to learn more about how language develops from infancy (eight months) to adolescence and in particular, why language development is more difficult for some children. This information will be helpful in developing early intervention and prevention programs for children.
UPDATED - ELVS Temporary phone number: 0480 263 911
What has happened so far?
Recruitment: ELVS Babies
The Early Language in Victoria Study (ELVS) began in September 2003, and more than 1900 families joined ELVS when their babies were eight to 10 months old. ELVS continued following the children until September 2007, when they had all turned four.
In 2008, ELVS families were invited to participate in a new and exciting phase of the study. The aim was to understand language and reading development in the early school years. We are delighted that many families have agreed to continue on our ELVS journey with us.
In 2012, the ELVS team were successful in receiving funding to follow up all the children now they are adolescents. Almost 1000 children were close to their 11th birthday, and parents and teachers provided data via questionnaires about communication and literacy skills. In 2016, researchers continued to collect data as the ELVS participants turned 13 years old. This has been helping provide some of the most comprehensive data ever gathered to examine how language continues to develop as children move into adolescence and settle in to secondary school.
ELVS families have so far helped researchers understand many aspects of communication development, including:
- Genes and language development
- Multilingual development
- Speech sound disorders
- Links between memory and language
- Autistic spectrum disorder
ELVS is very lucky to have such committed families taking part over the years! We are now looking at the best approaches to keep in touch with our participants as they get ready to transition from secondary school.
This trial examined the costs and benefits of screening for language impairment at four years of age, and providing those children identified with low language a one-on-one, community-based intervention program.
This study tested whether a child’s language and pre-literacy skills at four years of age were improved if their parents were encouraged to read with them.
This study examines how important working memory is for learning and whether playing certain computerised games each day for five weeks can improve working memory and, in turn, learning.
The original EHLS study examined the best way to support parents to create a rich home-learning environment and foster language development in their young children. This study will follow the children through their first years of school to assess whether the benefits of those strategies last beyond pre-school.
This study followed children with hearing loss from early primary school into adulthood to assess what impact hearing loss had on both the children’s lives and those of their families.
This study assessed the benefits and costs of screening all children for hearing loss at birth.
VicCHILD collects information about children born with permanent hearing loss over the course of their life to understand why some children with a hearing loss do well, while others experience greater difficulties. This information could then be used to improve the academic, social and emotional lives of children with hearing loss.
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia.
Iowa Longitudinal Study (USA)
This USA study examined the prevalence of language impairment in preschool children, and the impact differences in language development had for children both with and without language impairment.
This USA study examines the developmental, behavioural and familial outcomes of children with mild to severe hearing loss.
This UK study is a longitudinal survey following the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK in the year 2000. It charts the conditions of social, economic and health advantages and disadvantages facing children born at the start of the 21st century.
- Oral Language - a foundation for learning
- Developmental language disorder - a public health problem?
- Social disadvantage and early language delay
- The healthcare costs of childhood language difficulties
- Taking the 'Specific' out of Language Impairment
- The impacts of stuttering
- Stuttering and anxiety
- Late Talking: Can it predict later language difficulties?
- Late Talking: Is intervention necessary and effective?
- Late Talking: Does parenting behaviour hold the key?
- Help vs. Need: Why parents seek help about children's communication development in the early years
- CRE-CL newsletter August 2015
- CRE-CL newsletter April 2015
- CRE-CL newsletter December 2014
- CRE-CL newsletter July 2014
- CRE-CL newsletter May 2014
Articles and reports of interest
- Newcastle University: TV viewing and language skills
- Afasic England: Glossary Sheet - Developmental language disorder
- The Communication Trust: Talking About A Generation - a review into current policy, evidence and practice for speech, language and communication
- PeerJ Preprints: CATALISE: A multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study. Identifying language impairments in children
- The Conversation: The way we teach most children to read sets them up to fail
- International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders: Special Issue on Specific Language Impairment
- CRE in CL submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Prevalence of Communication Disorders
- Senate report: Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia
- Centre for Community Child Health Practice Brief: Promoting Bilingual Children's Communication Development
- Save the Children report: Read on. Get on. How reading can help children escape poverty
2014 Conference - Child Language Research: Discoveries and New Directions
- Professor Cate Taylor: Keynote presentation: Trajectories and transitions in language acquisition from birth to 10 years: New discoveries and future directions in Australian population based studies
2013 Conference - Child Language Research: Discovery, Intervention and Policy Implications
- Professor Bruce Tomblin: Genetics and Developmental Language Disorders
- Dr Fiona Mensah: The social context of language development and difficulties
- Professor Jan Nicholson: Development of an early intervention to promote child language and literacy: The Early Home Learning Study
- Professor James Law: The Social Communication Intervention Project: An intervention to promote pragmatic language skills in middle childhood and its potential implications for behaviour
- Dr Emma Sciberras: Health care use and costs associated with language impairment
- Associate Professor Sharon Goldfeld: Applying process improvement methods to speech and language waiting lists
- Professor Melissa Wake: What’s past is prologue: Optimising outcomes for children with hearing loss in the new era of UNHS
2012 Conference - What's new in Child Language Research: Implications for Policy and Practice
- Professor Bruce Tomblin: Language Impairment from Infancy to Adulthood
- Professor James Law: Speech and Language Therapy intervention for children with primary speech and language delay or disorder: The latest research
- Professor James Law: The development of the Communication Supporting Classrooms observation tool
- Professor Andrew Whitehouse: Prenatal testosterone and language development
- Associate Professor Sharon Goldfeld: The Let's Read randomised trial
- Professor Sheena Reilly: The Early Language in Victoria Study
- Professor Melissa Wake: Let's Learn Language and Language for Learning