Peggy A. Sissel, Ed.D.
Founder and CEO
Time2Talk2Baby is a free audio coaching app being developed by Words To Grow On, LLC, a new social enterprise innovating ways to improve the healthy development of young children through personalized approaches, products, and presentations.
The Time2Talk2Baby program is designed to encourage parents to talk more, sing more and read more to their 0-3 year-olds because of the critical role that exposure to language plays in children's development. When parents sign up, their smart phone is sent a daily 30 - 60 second audio message that offers suggestions for topics, different techniques for engaging baby, and easy to understand information about development.
An initial pilot was run with 10 women in 2014/2015, and the concept proved to be viable. Next, in the spring of 2016 a randomized controlled study funded by HRSA's Word Gap Innovation Competition was undertaken in pursuit of the following questions: Can a simple, click and listen audio coaching app: 1.) Increase parents’ perceived frequency of verbal interaction with their babies? 2.) Increase the types of engagement parents’ report having with their babies? and 3.) Measurably improve babies’ language development?
Ninety moms with babies ages 2 - 34 months were recruited with the assistance of a variety of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and professionals in family medicine and pediatrics. Moms were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups.
At intake each one each completed an extensive online survey that asked about their lifestyle and literacy habits, the kinds and frequency of their interactions with their baby, and their attitudes about reading and sharing books with their baby. Mom's also completed the LENA Developmental Snapshot, a highly reliable, validated language assessment for infants and toddlers ages 2 months to 36 months of age.
The treatment moms each received 58 messages over the course of nine weeks. Messages were age appropriate and sent in four age groups: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months and 24-36 months. During this time, opening and listening rates were tracked for each mom, and each completed a survey about their opinions of the audio clips, the study process, and how the program affected them.
Moms reported changes in their knowledge and behavior as a result of the program. They not only were interacting more with their babies, they were also telling other parents to talk more to their children as well. They overwhelmingly viewed Time2Talk2Baby as beneficial, engaging, helpful, and enjoyable. They also contributed many suggestions for topics and themes, and provided comments about the messages they particularly enjoyed.
At the end of the messaging period, moms also repeated the language assessment on their child. As a group, the treatment children experienced robust levels of development. Analysis revealed a statistically significant difference between the developmental growth of the treatment and control children. At the 95% confidence interval, treatment children gained a mean increase of 6 standardized points on the test, while the control children's mean score actually went down. In addition, over the course of nine weeks 20 of the 41 children (48.7%) in the treatment group advanced a total of 316 weeks beyond the nine weeks of expected development. Only 8 of 39 children in the control group advanced beyond anticipated development levels for that time period (a total of 60 weeks), and 11, or 28.2% of the control children actually lagged in development.
Overall, the results of Time2Talk2Baby exceeded our expectations as all three of the research questions were answered in the affirmative. These strong findings indicate that Time2Talk2Baby is a viable intervention for bridging the word gap, and should be financed and developed as a free smart phone app. Partnerships should be developed for the purpose of enrolling parents in the app. Suggested partnerships are public health systems, private and community-based medical clinics, human services, public housing, foster care programs and other agencies and organizations that serve children and families.