Helping Parents Help Their Children

Some strategies that parents use while interacting with their children are particularly helpful for children presenting with a language disorder. Dr. Stefano Rezzonico is helping to develop a tool that speech-language pathologists will use to evaluate what strategies parents actually use. This tool will permit to speech-language pathologists to target the strategies parents need the most to help their children learn language.

Stefano joined Dr. Luigi Girolametto’s Child Language lab with a postdoctoral fellowship granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Stefano obtained a co-supervised PhD in Human Sciences-Language and Communication Pathology from University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and in Language Sciences from Sorbonne Nouvelle (France). His research focuses on pragmatics (e.g. explanations and justifications competence), discourse (e.g. referring expressions), social interaction and their relations with developmental language impairment. He is particularly interested in parent-child interactions and parents scaffolding strategies.

Stefano is working with staff at The Hanen Centre to evaluate the psychometric properties of a rating scale developed to assess parent-child interactions. The rating scale focuses on strategies that parents use while interacting with their children. Items of the rating scale evaluate interaction-promoting strategies – as for example the use of questions and comments to continue the conversation – as well as language-based strategies – for example assessing whether the parent expands on the child’s message. The strategies analyzed by the rating scale are essential in parent-child interactions because they promote child language.

In this research, he will first evaluate the validity of each item in the scale by sending questionnaires to 2000 speech-language pathologists affiliated with The Hanen Centre. Next, 80 parent-child dyads will be videotaped. The scale will be used to rate interaction of these dyads in two different activities (a free play and a shared book reading). The scale’s reliability (inter-rater and test-retest) and internal coherence will be assessed. The results of this study will contribute to the establishment of a useful tool that will facilitate the assessment of parent-child interactions by speech-language pathologists. Since The Hanen Centre has affiliations worldwide with over 12000 speech-language pathologists, we expect that there will be a widespread uptake of the rating scale once completed. Co-investigators in this study are Elaine Weitzman (Executive Director, The Hanen Centre) and Cindy Conklin (Program Director, It Takes Two to Talk® – The Hanen Program® for Parents of Children with Language Delays, The Hanen Centre).