Positive Parenting: How can families help language development?

LANSING, MI (WILX) -- Researchers have found that children from lower-income backgrounds tend to be exposed to fewer words than their higher-income peers, we talked about this 30-million-word-gap a few weeks ago.

NAMI offers family members an educational program, Family-to-Family (MGN).

Now, scientists are researching how kids' brains respond to words and what families can do to help language development.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscientist Rachel Romeo can show you what's going on inside your little one's head. Romeo and her colleagues at MIT study the way young children's brains respond to language.

Romeo had children lie in an MRI scanner and listen to stories while the machine recorded images of their brain.

Researchers also had kids wear recording devices to measure words and conversations at home. They found it wasn't the number of words that resulted in positive brain development and higher verbal knowledge, but the amount of back-and-forth conversation.

"You can be a low-income family and hear lots and lots of conversations and your brain development will be right on par with the higher income family," Romeo said.

Romeo said caregivers should find ways to have these frequent back-and-forth interactions with their children.

"You can make faces and blow raspberries at infants. You can ask toddlers questions about their day," Romeo said.

Lisa Kingsley said she started at birth for her youngest, Caroline.

"Whenever I really heard purposeful noise, I would stop and pretend to respond," Kingsley said.

Romeo said the study findings suggest early intervention programs that encourage parents to talk interactively with their children, may be able to help bridge the word gap.

Copyright 2019 WILX. All rights reserved.