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.

Funding

The Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language brings together leading researchers across Australia and the UK. These experts include:

 

Lead Investigator

Professor Sheena Reilly
Speech Pathologist
Sheena is the Director of the Menzies Health Institute in Queensland. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Murdoch Childrens 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.

Chief Investigators

Professor Melissa Wake
Paediatrician
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 Childrens 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 Childrens 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
Statistician
Fiona is a senior researcher at the Murdoch Childrens 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
Psychologist
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 Childrens 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
Health Economist
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
Paediatrician
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 Childrens 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.

Prof James Law
Role: 
Chief Investigator
Newcastle University, UK
Prof Jan Nicholson
Role: 
Chief Investigator
La Trobe University
A/Prof Lisa Gold
Role: 
Chief Investigator
Deakin University
Dr Naomi Hackworth
Role: 
Invited Investigator
La Trobe University
Dr Liz Westrupp
Role: 
Post-Doctoral Fellow
La Trobe University
Dr Emma Scibberas
Role: 
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Deakin University
Dr Cristina McKean
Role: 
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Newcastle University, UK
Lauren Pigdon
Role: 
Doctoral Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Ha Le
Role: 
Research Fellow
Deakin University
Peter Carew
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Laura Conway
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Shannon Bennetts
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Jessica Matov
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Hannah Stark
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Jodie Smith
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Dr Penny Levickis
Role: 
Research Coordinator
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Eileen Cini
Role: 
Data Manager
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Tom King
Role: 
Statistician
Newcastle University, UK
Robert Rush
Role: 
Statistician
Queen Margaret University, UK
Pooja Patel
Role: 
Research Assistant
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Our Research Partners

  • The Murdoch Childrens 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. 

Other partnerships

Research project
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.

Language for Learning

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.

Let's Read

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.

Memory Maestros

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.

Early Home Learning Study at School

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.

Children with Hearing Impairment in Victoria Outcome Study

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.

Statewide Comparison of Outcomes of Hearing Loss (SCOUT)

This study assessed the benefits and costs of screening all children for hearing loss at birth.

Victorian Childhood Hearing Impairment Longitudinal Databank (VicCHILD)

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.

Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children

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.

Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (USA)

This USA study examines the developmental, behavioural and familial outcomes of children with mild to severe hearing loss.

Millennium Cohort (UK)

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.

Teenager
Research News
In September 2015, the Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language hosted a National Roundtable on Specific Language Impairment. The roundtable brought together a range of experts from around Australia to facilitate national discussion about language impairment terminology, diagnosis and service allocation. In line with international discussions, the roundtable focussed on the suitability of the term ‘Specific Language Impairment’ and the criteria used to determine language impairment. A discussion paper outlining some of the talking points from the roundtable is now available. You may also be interested in the outcomes of the multinational CATALISE study . CATALISE used a Delphi process to arrive at a consensus statement about identifying language impairments in children.
Research News
‘The challenge of evidence based policy and practice: Where to now for early language interventions?’ This seminar will bring together key experts in child language development from Australia and the UK. It is designed for early years services, schools, allied health professionals, local government, policy makers and researchers. The seminar is being held by the CRE in Child Language in partnership with the Centre for Community Child Health. The seminar will take place on Friday September 18th 2015, at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Victoria. View Seminar Program. Register for this Seminar .
Research News
The CRE in Child Language is holding a research methodology workshop to discuss statistical methods and challenges, of particular relevance to researchers in the population health area. Whilst specific examples will be drawn from the field of child language research, the methodological approaches will be applicable to other research areas. This day-long seminar will take place at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Victoria. The workshop will be capped at 30 participants to allow for rigourous discussion of the techniques described. It is anticipated that it will be of most benefit for population health researchers with a particular interest in statistics at PhD level and above. If you would like to receive further details about this workshop please email Louise at louise.wardrop@mcri.edu.au
Research News
The Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language has developed two new Research Snapshots which focus on the impacts of stuttering as a preschooler: The impacts of stuttering Stuttering and anxiety The Snapshots summarise the findings of one of the CRE’s large, long-term studies and the implications of these findings for policy, practice and research.
Research News
The UK's Economic and Social Research Council has funded the production of a series of seminars exploring the role large studies tracking children from birth may have in solving a range of speech, language and communication questions. The series is for researchers, policy makers and practitioners alike. The first seminar and more information about the Born Talking project are now available online.
Research News
The Centre for Childhood Language recently made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the prevalence of communication disorders. The submission focused on the development of language and language impairment in children from birth until eight years of age. It stressed the importance of language for both individual health, and national health and prosperity. Both our submission and the Senate Committee’s final report are available for public view.

Discussion Paper

Fact Sheet

Policy Brief

Research Snapshots

CRE-CL Newsletters

Articles and reports of interest

Presentations

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

Useful Links

Publication
Year: 
2015
Volume: 
350
Citation: 
Reilly S, McKean C, Morgan A, Wake M. Identifying and managing common childhood language and speech impairments. BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 350 : h2318(2015) PubMed (PDF) (Grant IDs: 1023493, 1041892, 1046518)
Publication
Year: 
2015
Volume: 
10
Issue: 
8
Citation: 
McKean C, Mensah FK, Eadie P, Bavin EL, Bretherton L, Cini E, Reilly S. Levers for Language Growth: Characteristics and Predictors of Language Trajectories between 4 and 7 Years. PLOS ONE 10 (8) : e0134251(2015) PubMed (Grant IDs: 237106, 9436958, 1041947, 1023493, 1037449, 1041892)
Publication
Year: 
2015
Citation: 
Mayes AK, Reilly S, Morgan AT. Neural correlates of childhood language disorder: a systematic review. DEVELOPMENTAL MEDICINE AND CHILD NEUROLOGY (2015) PubMed (Grant IDs: 1023493, 607315, 1041892)
Publication
Year: 
2015
Citation: 
Roberts G, Quach J, Mensah F, Gathercole S, Gold L, Anderson P, Spencer-Smith M, Wake M. Schooling Duration Rather Than Chronological Age Predicts Working Memory Between 6 and 7 Years: Memory Maestros Study. JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS : 1 - 7(2015) PubMed (Grant IDs: 1005317, 1046518, 1035100, 628371, 1037449)
Publication
Year: 
2015
Volume: 
136
Issue: 
4
Citation: 
Wake M, Levickis P, Tobin S, Gold L, Ukoumunne OC, Goldfeld S, Zens N, Le HN, Law J, Reilly S. Two-Year Outcomes of a Population-Based Intervention for Preschool Language Delay: An RCT. PEDIATRICS 136 (4) : e838 - 47(2015) PubMed (Grant IDs: 607407, 546405, 1046518, 436914, 1041892, 491210, 425855, 1035100, 1023493)
Publication
Year: 
2014
Citation: 
Sciberras E, Westrupp EM, Wake M, Nicholson JM, Lucas N, Mensah F, Gold L, Reilly S. Healthcare costs associated with language difficulties up to 9 years of age: Australian population-based study. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY (2014) PubMed
Publication
Year: 
2014
Volume: 
133
Issue: 
5
Citation: 
Sciberras E, Mueller KL, Efron D, Bisset M, Anderson V, Schilpzand EJ, Jongeling B, Nicholson JM. Language Problems in Children With ADHD: A Community-Based Study. PEDIATRICS 133 (5) : 793 - 800(2014) PubMed (PDF)
Publication
Year: 
2014
Citation: 
Levickis P., Reilly S., Girolametto L., Ukoumunne OC., Wake M. Maternal Behaviors Promoting Language Acquisition in Slow-to-Talk Toddlers: Prospective Community-based Study. JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS : 1 - 8(2014) PubMed
Publication
Year: 
2014
Citation: 
Hudson S, Levickis P, Down K, Nicholls R, Wake M. Maternal responsiveness predicts child language at ages 3 and 4 in a community-based sample of slow-to-talk toddlers. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders (2014) PubMed (Grant IDs: 384491, 491296, 1046518, 1023493)
Publication
Year: 
2014
Citation: 
Down K., Levickis P., Hudson S., Nicholls R., Wake M. Measuring maternal responsiveness in a community-based sample of slow-to-talk toddlers: a cross-sectional study. CHILD CARE HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT : 1 - 5(2014)