What if you could diagnose language difficulties before a child could talk?

It is generally accepted that early diagnosis improves recovery, or, in the case of developmental difficulties, enables us to help a child develop to his or her full potential. But language difficulties may not be picked up until a child is already behind his or her peer group in terms of linguistic ability. So, finding early markers prior to the onset of speech would be ideal for enabling early intervention.

Today I spoke to Haiko Ballieux from the University of East London who was presenting new eye-tracking technology to adults and children at the BNA’s Wonder Street Fair in the Barbican Centre. He explained to me that the study has two main aims. Firstly, to look at how awareness of a babies interest (demonstrated by what he or she focuses on) can affect the parents’ perception of the child. Secondly, Ballieux’s group plans to study these infants over at least a 2 year period to try to find possible early markers for later language difficulties.

The eye tracking technology uses what appears at first glance to be a computer screen. However, this computer screen is capable of tracking an infant’s focal point whilst he or she watches a series of images, or in this case, a video of a baby biting his brother’s finger.

So far, the study suggests that parents have found the sessions run by the group interesting and in many cases parental perceptions have changed. The quest for markers is still underway. But in the meantime, you can have a look at their website or pop along to the Wonder Street Fair and try out the technology for yourself.