Students help raise Talkable toddlers

April 24, 2017

Karen Nitsche (pictured) plans to develop the program to help give children the best start to life

Five Murdoch University students are playing a major role in developing a new mobile application that will help parents raise “talkable” toddlers.

In partnership with staff and students from Murdoch University’s School of Engineering and Information Technology and childcare centres, local mum and early intervention speech pathologist, Karen Nitsche, plans to develop the program aimed at helping give children the best start to life in terms of their speech and language development.

With research indicating that, one-in-five two-year-olds are late to talk, which can affect later literacy and academic success.

Karen said utilising technology to provide this universal program directly to the participants via a mobile app is a relatively unexplored resource in the field of speech pathology.

The third year Information Technology major students will design and develop the entire application, which includes the coding, development of the software and the graphics. This will be done in collaboration with their supervisor at Murdoch, Associate Professor Hamid Laga.

“During their studies at Murdoch University, students work on real projects with real clients,” Professor Laga said.

“The Talkable project involves a ten-week parent training program delivered video tutorials, book sharing activities, key word signing and language learning hints and tips all provided via the mobile application. At the conclusion of the project, the students will deliver a proof of concept prototype for the client.”

Karen said working with the staff and students from Murdoch University had been a pleasure, and was impressed with the professionalism shown by the Murdoch students.

“When I first met with the students it was clear that they had done their background research and taken the time to find out more about Talkable and what I'm hoping to achieve through the app,” she said.

“I am looking forward to working with them for the rest of the semester and can't wait to see a working prototype.”

As part of the City of Melville’s Project Robin Hood grant scheme, which allows local residents to apply for a share of $100,000 for community projects, Karen is planning to make a difference with her mobile application by also supporting parents with group sessions and online support. The funds for Project Robin Hood are allocated via public vote with voting opening on the 24 April 2017 via the City of Melville website. Voting closes on 19 May 2017.

“Chances are you may know a child who has delayed language. Many of these children will catch up to their peers, but it’s hard to know which ones will be left behind,” Karen said.

“Research in early brain development has shown that there are critical periods for language development which happen in the early years of life, and that the quality of parent-child interactions during these years has a big impact on a child’s language development.

“Unfortunately not all families have access to private speech pathology services and often face lengthy waits for public services, meaning that they don’t always receive help when their child needs it most.

“A grant from the Project Robin Hood scheme would enable me to provide parents, grandparents and early childhood educators with a free program aimed to enrich the language learning opportunities of the children they care for in the first three years of life."

If you would like to learn more about this project or would like to participate, contact Karen at karen@talkable.org.au.

For more information about typical language development and to get some great ideas to help your child learn language head to www.talkable.org.au.

For the latest Murdoch University news, click here.

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