Gad­get to bet­ter tod­dlers’ speech


A new speech record­ing de­vice is help­ing bridge the gap be­tween how chil­dren from rich and poor homes learn to speak.

De­vel­oped by LENA Re­search Foun­da­tion in the US, it is be­ing tri­alled in New Zealand for the first time.

It is run by Talk­ing Mat­ters, a cam­paign led by COMET Auck­land, an in­de­pen­dent ed­u­ca­tion trust linked to Auck­land Coun­cil, with seed fund­ing from the NEXT Foun­da­tion.

Four Auck­land mums were part of the six-month pilot pro­gramme that aims to help im­prove the vo­cab­u­lary of tod­dlers.

Re­nee Maka from Ma­nurewa was sur­prised when she heard her fouryear-old tell her, ‘‘you’ve got to use your strate­gies’’.

She says the de­vice has helped her talk in full sen­tences too.

‘‘Usu­ally, I’d say go grab this or get that. But now I say, ‘ Can you please get me the cup that’s on top of the brown ta­ble’.’’

Her son Tyson wears the de­vice that fits snug into a colour­ful vest. It’s on him for 16 hours a day, and on av­er­age he speaks up to 500 words an hour.

The LENA recorder will pick up words said to and by the child, and works much like a pe­dome­ter.

Par­ents then hand over the de­vice to Talk­ing Mat­ters project man­ager Emma Quigan. Within a cou­ple of hours, they can find out how much their child spoke in the day, when were they most chatty and what top­ics held their in­ter­est, among other in­ter­est­ing data.

Us­ing the data gleaned from the LENA recorder, Emma then pro­vides tips and feed­back for the mums on how to im­prove their child’s lan­guage skills.

Quigan says some of the mums who have grad­u­ated are keen to ful­fil the role of a coach in other com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘I have coached them on how to use the tech­nol­ogy, read the re­ports and think about strate­gies,’’ she says.

‘‘We want to in­tro­duce it in te reo Ma¯ori.’’

She says there is a big gap be­tween highly ed­u­cated and lesse­d­u­cated par­ents and it’s re­flected in their child’s lan­guage skills.

They’re fo­cus­ing the pro­gramme on com­mu­nity groups while still in the ini­tial stages.

The Auck­land Kinder­garten As­so­ci­a­tion have re­cently signed up.


Re­nee Maka with her son Tyson.

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