Can the Babbleplay App promote vocalising in babies with Down syndrome?

Pilot studies of a novel parent-led intervention to encourage infants with Down Syndrome to vocalise more, using an app, BabblePlay. BabblePlay responds to vocalisations with moving shapes on a screen.

Recent research has highlighted that early speech development, starting with speech sounds and babble, influences the rate of spoken language development. Researchers at the University of York have developed an app designed to encourage infants to babble more as the patterns on the screen respond as the baby increases their babble. Infants with Down syndrome tend to babble less that other babies and we are evaluating if the BabblePlay app could increase their vocalisations. The app records the infants' vocalisations, measures the timing of their vocalisations and counts their frequency.

A first pilot study has been completed with 29 infants from 0;7 to 1;3 with promising results as 81.5% vocalised at a higher rate when playing with the BabblePlay app than with a mirror and 85% increased their vocalisation rate over the week that they played with the app.

The team have now been awarded a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grant for a feasibility RCT comparing interactions with a mirror to those with the BabblePlay app and this study will start in 2024.

Partners

  • University of York, UK
  • University of Manchester, UK
  • Down Syndrome Education International, UK

Funding

Website Project: A new intervention using the BabblePlay app for populations at risk for language delay - Language and Linguistic Science, University of York

References

  • Keren-Portnoy, T., Buckley, S., Burgoyne, K., Daffern, H., Kanaan, M., Boundy, L., Arshad, S. (2024) Using the Babbleplay App to promote vocalising in babies with Down syndrome. Paper presented at 56th Gatlinburg Conference on Research and Theory in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Kansas, 17-19 April 2024.
  • Keren-Portnoy, T., Buckley, S., Burgoyne, K., Daffern, H., Kanaan, M., Boundy, L., Arshad, S. (2024) Using the Babbleplay App to promote vocalising in babies with Down syndrome. Paper presented at the Down Syndrome Research Forum, 25-26 April, UK Abstract: Session 3, Speech Development (down-syndrome.org)