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Sacramento, Calif. – Research on a new device – a version of which is now available to consumers – that measures young children’s language-learning environment and holds promise for use in the screening, assessment and treatment of young children with autism, will be the topic of the first 2009-2010 UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute Distinguished Lecturer address on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

The address will be presented by Steven Warren, a senior scientist, professor of applied behavioral science and vice provost for research and graduate studies at the University of Kansas, at 4:30 p.m. in the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute auditorium, 2850 50th St., Sacramento.

Internationally recognized

Warren is internationally recognized for his contributions to understanding language development in children and his leadership in the field of developmental disabilities. He has conducted extensive research on early communication and language-intervention approaches and has published more than 120 papers, chapters, and books on these and related topics.

Warren’s major research interests are early communication and language development and intervention and the prevention of mental retardation. His Distinguished Lecturer address focuses on his research using a new device that is an extension of the LENA (Language Environment Analysis) system, which Warren calls a ‘breakthrough technology.’

The LENA system utilizes speech-signal processing technology to analyze and monitor a child’s natural language environment and the vocalizations/speech of the child. It allows for recording of very large amounts of vocal information at high fidelity and high signal-to-noise ratio, with little if any disruption of daily events in children’s environments. Further, this technology provides automated analysis of the recordings to yield critical information about verbal input to the child, the vocal activity of the child, and vocal interactions or conversational turns between the child and adults.

Warren”s research found significant differences between typically developing children and children with autism spectrum disorders in the characteristics of their conversations, the number of conversational turns and child vocalizations. These differences correlated with parent questionnaire measures of child autism characteristics, development and communication.

Delayed and disordered communication and language development is common among young children diagnosed with autism and related developmental disorders. Early intervention efforts typically attempt to accelerate the development of communication skills in these children. However, in the past very little has been known about the language-learning environments that these children experience on a day-to-day basis.

Warren has investigated the effects of a variety of different communication and language intervention strategies intended for use with children 3 and younger with developmental delays. This research has focused on the development of intervention models and longitudinal evaluation of these and other approaches, the development and application of an overarching theoretical model for understanding the effects of early intervention, and most recently the interaction of early intervention and specific etiologies, such as fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome and autism.

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, in Sacramento, CA, was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual prevention and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition to autism, the M.I.N.D. Institute has major research efforts in fragile X syndrome, Tourette syndrome, chromosome 22q11.3 deletion syndrome and ADHD. More information about the institute is available on the Web at https://www.mindinstitute.org.

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