Our Research

fountain with sunset fountain with sunset
Different investigators and students are conducting multiple research projects at the Center.

Research Projects

Our ongoing federally funded research project examined networks of peer speech over 10 observations over the course of the school year using a set of state of the art automated measures. Results indicate that children learn words from their classmates’ speech. Children also learn words from their teachers but only when teachers and children take turns speaking. Here are two recent publications from that study: 

Custode, S. A., Bailey, J., Sun, L., Katz, L., Ullery, M., Messinger, D., Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., & Perry, L. K. (2023). Preschool Language Environments and Social Interactions in an Early Intervention Classroom: A Pilot Study. Journal of Early Intervention.

Elbaum B, Perry LK, Messinger DS (2024). Investigating children’s interactions in preschool classrooms: An overview of research using automated sensing technologies. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 66:147–156.

With a grant from the Simons Foundation for Autism Research Initiative, the Center assesses the autism symptoms of children with developmental delays using clinical and objective measures to compare children’s social behavior in the classroom, the playground and during autism assessments.



The project Infant-Directed Singing and Self-Regulation in Infants with Prenatal Drug Exposure is funded by the GRAMMY Museum Grants Program and spearheaded by Dr. Shannon de l’Etoile, Professor of Music Therapy from the University of Miami Frost School of Music.  The study involves implementing and assessing the effect of infant-directed singing (IDS) with interaction coaching intervention on maternal sensitivity to infant cues and, ultimately, infant self-regulation.  Defined as the ability to modify internal states, self-regulation has implications for attachment, resilience, academic success, and overall emotional and social competence throughout the lifespan.

Audio recordings of mothers singing to their infants will undergo data mining by music engineers to determine the presence of critical musical and vocal parameters, such as pitch level, tempo, tonality, etc.  Using supervised machine learning, the research term will further examine infant facial expressions in response to IDS to identify early markers of self-regulatory behavior, such as arousal level and attention.  Ultimately, investigators will explore relationships between mothers’ singing and infants’ responses, to identify reliable connections between the two constructs. 

Toddler’s Talk: An innovation grant funded by The Children’s Trust to provide insight into child vocal behavior with caregivers. Language Environment Analysis (LENA) technology, a small wearable device often referred to as a “talk pedometer,” was provided to participants and used to count the conversational turns between an adult and a child at home. Research-based and evidence-informed, LENA provides an innovative way to help families increase their focus on talk and positive interactions.

The use of LENA software to process the audio captured by the device was used to generate clear reports shared with caregivers. LENA provides an innovative way to help families increase their focus on talk and positive interactions.

The federally funded STEP Up AT project provides coaching to center staff on the evidence-based use of assistive technology (AT). After completing a pilot study on the impacts of AT on young children’s communication, Elena Fernández, Austin Garilli, and Michelle Schladant recently presented their findings at the Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists. They found that the implementation of AT led to significant improvements in toddler’s communication skills, underscoring the need for more professional development for early childhood teachers related to AT. 

Impacts of AT on Late Talking Toddlers:  Elena is also completing her dissertation at the Center. Through her work, she is looking at the impacts of assistive technology on toddlers' communication, behavior, and engagement in an early intervention center. 

Other Studies

We plan to contextualize Center studies with our Neighborhood/Geocoding Study. This study picks up on previous initiatives at the Center to link families’ addresses with census tract information to best understand the stressors they face and how they can be alleviated. A new graduate student in Nursing, Jiye Lee, is central to this initiative. 

The Objective Assessment of Social Communication Study uses measures like LENA to better understand the assessment of a child's abilities and difficulties. Graduating psychology graduate student Jackie Moffitt is going on an internship so she will be passing the baton to new graduate student Alyssa Viggiano for this study.