Stanford/Packard Study Of Language Development Needs Toddlers, Parents

-- What: Scientists at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University are recruiting parents and toddlers to study the effect of premature birth on language development.

Who: Toddlers aged 18-24 months whose first language is either English or Spanish and their parents are invited to participate. The study is recruiting toddlers born prematurely before 32 weeks of gestation and toddlers born full-term after at least 37 weeks of pregnancy. Parent-child pairs participate in each study session.

Why: Children born prematurely tend to develop language skills more slowly than their peers. Challenges in language use and later in reading may persist into the teen years and beyond. By comparing language development from age 18 months to 4 years old in preterm and full-term children, the research team hopes to find early markers to identify which children are at greatest risk for long-term language problems. They also want to understand why these delays occur more frequently in children born prematurely. In future studies, they plan to develop ways to intervene at young ages to help children at risk for long-term delays.

When and where: The study tests language comprehension in each child volunteer at 18, 24, 30 and 36 months and at 4 years of age. Study testing takes place in a psychology laboratory on the main Stanford campus or at a satellite location in Sunnyvale.  Heidi Feldman, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and Anne Fernald, PhD, associate professor of psychology, are co-leading the study.

How: The scientists use hidden cameras to track children’s eye movements in response to questions about pictures on a computer monitor. For instance, a child is shown a picture of a dog and a cat, and asked, “Where is the dog?” The cameras record whether the child looks at the dog.

“What’s really exciting is that this method doesn’t require the child to do a lot of talking,” Feldman said. “If the child understands spoken language, we can include him or her in the study.” Fernald has used this method in children born full term and found that early performance predicts later skills.

For more information or to sign up, parents should call (650) 723-1257 or email Laura Barde at


About Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford at its core, is the largest Bay Area health care enterprise exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers. Long recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best, we are a leader in world-class, nurturing care and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty, with care ranging from the routine to rare, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Together with our Stanford Medicine physicians, nurses, and staff, we can be accessed through partnerships, collaborations, outreach, specialty clinics and primary care practices at more than 60 locations in Northern California and 100 locations in the U.S. western region. As a non-profit, we are committed to supporting our community – from caring for uninsured or underinsured kids, homeless teens and pregnant moms, to helping re-establish school nurse positions in local schools. Learn more at and on our Healthier, Happy Lives blog. You can also discover how we are Building the Hospital of the Future. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. For information about all three, please visit