The Marion Downs Center Research Program (under the direction of Christine Yoshinaga-Itano & Phillip Gilley) moved from the Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Science to the Institute of Cognitive Science at CU Boulder. Our research laboratory currently has 2 research grants from the Centers for Disease Control (Disability Research Dissemination Center, University of South Carolina) and one from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This grant is part of a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) in the area of hearing awarded to Gallaudet University. Our part of this research center is the development of technology to validate the fitting of amplification in infants identified with hearing loss. The RERC research team including Dr. Phillip Gilley (ICS)(PI), Dr. Tammy Fredrickson (SLHS), Dr. Kristin Uhler (UCDMC) and Dr. Sandra Gabbard (Marion Downs Center, Denver CO) has recently identified a neurophysiological EEG biomarker for speech discrimination in infants and is actively working to develop an automated protocol that can be used with children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss. We have developed a behavioral protocol using a conditioned head turn response to develop a speech discrimination test for infants and to investigate the hierarchy of difficulty of speech phoneme discrimination for infants with hearing and hearing loss and its relationship to later literacy and higher level language processes. Additionally, we are collaborating with the LENA Foundation, a non-profit that has developed technology that records the auditory language environment of an infant/child’s day and automatically calculates an estimate of the average number of adult words that the child was exposed to, the number of child vocalizations, the number of conversational turns, and an automatic vocalization analysis of the phoneme production of the child. The project is working with the LENA Foundation to develop additional automated analysis of the child and adult spoken language, such as measures of the child’s syllables per utterance and an index of parent responsiveness. The LENA Foundation and our RERC team are working on automated parent reports delivered via cellphone or computer. While our role has been to assist in the development of strategies for interventions with children with disorders, LENA was developed and is increasingly being used with infants and children with typical development at-risk for developmental delays.

The Centers for Disease Control National Early Childhood Assessment Project: Deaf/Hard of Hearing (NECAP) is a project assisting 15 states in the development of systems capable of collecting longitudinal developmental assessments on their population of infants/children with hearing loss birth through 3 years of age, identified as a result of universal newborn hearing screening programs. Our project staff include: Dr. Allison Sedey, Dr. Mallene Wiggin, Clare Neville, Cynthia Hunnicutt, and Janet des Georges. Over the past 20 years since universal newborn hearing screening, Colorado data indicates that children with hearing loss, identified and enrolled into early intervention services by 6 months, have maintained language development within the normal range for the first 7 years of life. However, replication of these results in other states has not been found. In contrast to the Colorado data, great variability of development has been reported across the United States. We are attempting to identify the cognitive, auditory, linguistic, socio-economic and social-emotional variables that impact these developmental outcomes.

Our second CDC EHDI outcomes grant is analyzing the developmental data from over 1000 Colorado infants with hearing loss identified through universal newborn hearing screening since 1992. Additionally, we are gathering developmental outcome data from the Colorado children through 18 years of age to be able to describe the developmental trajectories over the last 20 years.

We have an additional fourth project with UCDMC from Maternal and Child Health. This project is training doctoral students in the area of pediatrics, with specific emphasis on children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.