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Improve early childhood health and development
Language and Communication

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TALK Around Town: A Mobile App to Bridge the Word Gap

Bigelow, K.;
Irvin, D.



Nick Eastwood-Tallmon, and Amy Turcott

Parent-delivered interventions have been shown to be an effective strategy for closing the thirty-million word gap experienced by young children of families living in poverty. An often-cited challenge in parenting interventions, however, is the consistent use of those interventions beyond the home visit (Korfmacher et al, 2008). While parents may participate in home visits, they may not always implement new strategies in their day-to-day interactions with their young children (Wagner et al., 2003). To address this challenge, we propose the development of a mobile application to extend the reach of parent coaching beyond home visits, and into the community settings families frequently visit, such as grocery stores and restaurants. Our team is developing and testing the TALK Around Town mobile application and online web portal, an easy-to-use, engaging, and collaborative application that provides real-time, location-specific prompts that help parents use evidence-based communication promoting strategies in community settings. This application will be used in the context of Early Head Start home visits, in which home visitors provide coaching on the Promoting Communication (PC) Strategies. The PC Strategies are naturalistic language strategies that fit into parents’ daily lives and have been shown to promote high rates of child communication growth when implemented with high fidelity (Walker, Bigelow et al, 2014). The mobile application, when accessed by home visitors and installed on parents’ smartphones, will utilize GPS functionality to trigger the online web-portal to send out real-time, setting-specific messages to the parent, offering individualized suggestions for how to use the PC Strategies in parent-selected settings (“waypoints”), when they are actually within that setting. When parents learn to implement new skills across settings for promoting child communication, these skills are more likely to generalize to new settings and be maintained over time.​

The proposed randomized controlled trial will examine the benefits of adding cell phone technology to an intervention that has been shown to result in an increase in the fidelity with which parents use language promoting strategies, and in improving child language outcomes. The proposed study will examine how cellular phones can be used within a home visiting program to (1) improve parent participation and engagement, and (2) increase the dosage and thus, enhance the effectiveness of the language promoting intervention in improving child language outcomes through an increase in the frequency with which parents implement the strategies. The language promoting intervention will be implemented by home visitors within two Early Head Start home visiting programs, and intervention coaches will provide mentoring and coaching to the home visitors on implementation of the language promoting intervention. Families will be recruited when children are 12 months of age, and following initial assessments, intervention will be embedded within home visits until children are 30 months of age.


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  • Research Engineer (App Developer): We are seeking a full-time Research Engineer to design, implement, and maintain web and mobile applications. Existing applications at JGCP include learning management systems, web apps that support management of child assessment data, graphing, reporting, and data-driven decision making, and mobile apps to support parent-teacher communication and student self-management. As a member of JGCP’s Technology Innovation, Development & Research (TIDR) lab, the programmer will work with multiple internal research teams to develop new applications and maintain existing applications. View the full posting and apply here
  • Student Hourly Positions We are seeking to fill student hourly positions. These students will be responsible for data collection activities with preschool students and teachers, including administering literacy assessments to children, observing classroom instruction and interactions, and assisting in the preparation and delivery of data reports in the Kansas City Metro area, as well as data management and entry at our offices in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. View the full job posting and apply here.  
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