The first one thousand days

As human beings, we learn more in the first 1,000 days than in the rest of our lives. We lay the foundations for a healthy, successful and happy life and the foundation for our language as well. But if you have difficulties with language at this age, this has consequences for the rest of your life. How do you find out if a baby - who does not yet speak - is language proficient? Language scientist Paula Fikkert (Radboud University) and psycholinguist Caroline Rowland (Max Planck Institute) therefore want to conduct research among as many very young children as possible to gain more insight. Will you help them? 

Research on language development is still very new. 'Because we simply don't or hardly know why one child develops quickly and easily, while another child has a lot of trouble and lags behind in his language development,' Fikkert explains. 'Time to explore this further.'

No time to waste

In the Netherlands, as many as 25% of all children struggle with language. Lagging behind in language increases and often eventually leads to emotional, psychological and economic damage. Later in life, people with language problems are more likely to show problematic and sometimes even criminal behaviour. They are more vulnerable when it comes to health, financial debts and violence. They also find it harder to find their way into a job and end up in counselling more often.

To address the language problem, you need to be able to detect it. 'Language problems only come to light when young children reach the age of three,' Caroline Rowland explains. 'Often the damage is irreparable by then.' Now, research focuses mainly on repairing language problems. Rowland: 'And that is less effective. There's just no time to waste.

Prevention is better than repairing

Fikkert and Rowland are ready to start a pilot at the Baby & Child Research Centre in Nijmegen. With that pilot, they will gain more insight into whether and how we detect language development problems in babies and young children.

The researchers will then translate that insight into information material, manuals and checklists for parents, but also for professionals. They create tools that are as concrete as possible, which in turn they then test and improve again. Fikkert: 'But we are not that far yet. A lot of research is still needed!'

Will you help to quickly discover language problems in young children? Please donate now.

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