Babies needed to take part in study

Staff from Macdonalds restaurant in Lancaster who took part in a litter pick called The Big Tidy Up with youngsters from Lancaster Boys and Girls' Club.
Staff from Macdonalds restaurant in Lancaster who took part in a litter pick called The Big Tidy Up with youngsters from Lancaster Boys and Girls' Club.

A tool which could radically improve the diagnosis of language delays in infants in the UK is being developed by psychologists at Lancaster University.

A £358,000 grant to develop the first standardised UK speech and language development tool means that for the first time, researchers will be able to establish language development norms for UK children aged eight months to 18 months.

The tool will plug an important gap which has left UK researchers, education and health professionals at a disadvantage.

Until now, UK language experts have been forced to rely upon more complicated methods of testing child language development, or on methods designed for American English speakers which can lead to UK babies being misdiagnosed as being delayed in language development.

The two-and-a-half year project will also look into the impact of family income and education on UK children’s language development, as well as examining differences between children learning UK English, and other languages and English dialects.

The project is expected to make a major contribution to language development research as well as to the effectiveness of speech and language therapy and improved policy making.

Researchers are keen to hear from parents with children under 18 months to take part in the study.They are also particularly interested in hearing from English dialect speakers such as families from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and from parents who left school early.

The research team is led by Dr Katie Alcock of Lancaster University’s Centre for Research in Human Development and Learning.

Anyone wishing to take part in the study should contact the research team at uk-cdi@lancaster.ac.uk.