Strengthening Children's Lives Through Science and Community Engagement

Return to Research Categories

Improve early childhood health and development
Language and Communication

PI and
Duration Sponsor

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

Bigelow, K.;
Irvin, D.



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.


What's New
Job Opportunities
  • Lead Application Developer/Research Engineer: We are seeking a full-stack Application Developer to lead development of single-page web applications, as well as maintain, troubleshoot and improve applications already in production. Existing applications at JGCP include learning management systems, web apps that help manage and report child outcomes to guide teacher’s instructional decisions, 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 developer will gain experience across multiple research projects. Review of applications will begin Sept 18, 2018 and continue until position is filled. For more information and how to apply, click hereKU is an EO/AAE
  • Postdoctoral Researchers (Early Intervention): Juniper Gardens Children’s Project (JGCP) is recruiting 2 postdoctoral researchers interested in developing expertise in designing, implementing and disseminating research carried out while developing evidence-based practices with community partners focused on early intervention, early care, and early education settings. The postdoctoral position is a full-time (100% FTE), 2 years, research-dedicated fellowship. Postdoctoral researchers will learn and develop new advances in the prevention and intervention of learning and behavior problems in young children. For more information and to apply online, click hereKU is an EO/AAE
  • Student Hourly (Data Collectors): Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, a community-based research institute affiliated with the University of Kansas, is conducting a research program aimed at evaluating how a Practice Based Coaching model (Literacy 3D) can be used to enhance the literacy focus of early childhood (EC) teachers through data-driven decision making and strategies that boost children’s opportunities to respond in literacy activities. We are seeking 4-10 student hourly employees who 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, as well as data management and entry at our offices in downtown Kansas City, KS. For more information and to apply online, click hereKU is an EO/AAE
  • Assistant/Associate Research Professor - Statistician: The KU Life Span Institute at Juniper Gardens is seeking to hire an Assistant or Associate Research Professor with statistical skills to work in a team environment on a range of educational and applied research projects. For more information and to apply, click here.  KU is an EO/AAE
Latest News
We are thrilled to partner with @tfckc on the Start Young Project! Start Young is a public-private collaborative de…