As one of the first hospital-based programs of its kind, Texas Children’s Hospital is pleased to announce the launch of upWORDS, a program aimed at closing the opportunity gap. The upWORDS program will give parents the knowledge of how to improve the quantity and quality of language spoken with their child and educate them on the long-term impact language can have on their child’s success in life. Developed in association with the LENA Research Foundation, the program at Texas Children’s will launch a pilot program this summer at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus.
“We are so proud to be one of the first hospitals to launch a program like this,” said Dr. Christopher Greeley, chief of the Section of Public Health Pediatrics at Texas Children’s. “The earliest years of a child’s life present an incredible window of opportunity to deeply impact their growth and development. We often wait until the child hits pre-school or kindergarten before we worry about language and speech. This program will allow us to train parents on language progression and techniques to understand how to provide the most successful environment for their child during these critical years.”
By the age of 3, 80 percent of a child’s brain development is complete. These first few years of a child’s life are therefore critical and provide the greatest opportunity to influence their success later in life. Research shows that many children are exposed to nearly 30 million fewer words than their peers by the time they reach 3 years old. The upWORDS program will help parents of infants and toddlers (0 to 6 months for the pilot program) close the “talk gap” by teaching them how to talk and interact more with their babies to increase brain development and positively impact their child’s future.
This six-month program, available in both English and Spanish, includes group classes where parents learn to use the LENA System™ to monitor their home language environment and are taught simple techniques to increase interactive talk with their child. The LENA System, which uses a small recorder that fits inside a vest worn by the child, measures the amount of words a family speaks to their child and how much their child responds in return. The recording is then translated into data that the parents can use to gauge how much they are talking to their child and identify opportunities to increase the level of spoken interaction they have with their baby. The recording is deleted immediately after it is processed so no one can ever listen to it. As part of the program, parents will also receive books to read with their children.
Programs using the LENA Start model have been implemented across the country in San Mateo County, California; Huntsville, Alabama; Ames, Iowa; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. One element that will be unique to the upWORDS program at Texas Children’s will be the individual coaching that parents receive. Twice a month, parents will meet individually with program staff at Texas Children’s and focus on unique program techniques tailored to their child in order to gain the best results possible. Parents will have the opportunity to not only discuss their data results from the LENA System, but also work through any additional obstacles that could potentially hinder their child’s development.
To learn more about, or register for, the upWORDS program at Texas Children’s, visit texaschildrens.org/upwords-program.