The Language Explorer is a fun story-retelling app that aims to help researchers learn about children’s language and communication abilities.
The app is part of a larger research project, sponsored by the NIHR, which is trying to answer the question about whether an app can help speech and language therapists evaluate the language of children who may have a developmental language disorder (DLD). It aims to achieve this by collecting data on how children between the ages of 4 and 8 perform on its three tasks: Story Retell, Comprehension and Repetition. This will be used in the future to train an app to spot the common characteristics of a child living with a DLD possesses. Will you help us harness the power of technology to improve outcomes for children across the country?
2 out of 30 children have DLD so it is important that speech and language therapists (SLTs) have the necessary tools to quickly and reliably do their assessments. The Language Explorer project seeks to achieve this by digitalising existing practices used by SLTs, and by using new technologies to improve the process of identifying DLD.
DLD is a condition where children have problems understanding and/or using spoken language. There is no obvious reason for these difficulties; for example, there is no hearing problem or physical disability that explains them. A combination of the fact that DLD has no known cause and symptoms which often are difficult to identify has led to many misconceptions surrounding the disorder.
Children with DLD often go unrecognised and without appropriate support can go on to have significant difficulties with education and social relationships. This, in turn, has long term consequences, with DLD being associated with future unemployment, mental and behavioural issues, and poor economic outcomes. However, access to specialist support and interventions at the right time can make a big difference, and reduce the chances of these negative consequences. This fact has spurred on the Language Explorer team, to provide clinicians with the tools to help identify DLD as early in a child’s development as possible!
The Language Explorer’s story is about a boy and his dog’s quest for treasure, which has universal appeal for all! It has been designed with children to ensure it is engaging, and to make sure the language used is suitable for its audience. After creating a profile, the child will listen to this story and then be asked to retell the story in the child’s own words, before completing a quiz and playing a repeating game. When you finish each challenge, you will earn yourself a pirate-themed reward: from a captain’s compass to a Pirate’s hat. When you win them all, you will be finally be a Pirate Captain! After all of the tasks are completed, you can listen back to their story and play a game where you steer your ship to collect as many treasure coins as possible. Make sure to avoid those dangerous rocks!