Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

A Systematic Review of the Use of LENA Technology

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

A Systematic Review of the Use of LENA Technology

Article excerpt

The purpose of the present article is to present the results of a systematic review of studies conducted with LENA technology. LENA (Language ENvironment Analysis) is a recently developed language measurement and analysis tool that is being used in a variety of settings by researchers, clinicians, hospitals, and therapists to study, assess, and accelerate the developing language skills of numerous child populations. The LENA system measures the quantity of spoken language in a child's environment by means of a small wearable digital recorder and patented processing software. The recorder collects up to 16 hours of continuous speech data generated in the vicinity of a particular child. Once these audio data have been collected, the device is connected to a computer, and the software automatically uploads, analyzes, and segments the data. The types of data generated through the analysis include adult word count (AWC, the number of adult words spoken to and near the child wearing the device), conversational turn count (CTC, the number of adultchild conversational interactions), and child vocalization count (CVC, the number of utterances produced by the child). The system can also generate data categorizing the mix of audio components in the child's environment, including meaningful speech (i.e., close and clear vocalizations), distant and overlapping speech, TV and electronic sounds, background noise, and silence. These data are then reported in a graph that displays monthly, daily, hourly, and 5-minute time frames, as well as the percentage of time the child spent in the presence of each audio component.

Though LENA technology has been used in interventions relating to diagnoses such as language delay, as well as hearing loss and autism-and, increasingly, in interventions addressing the enduring effects of economic disadvantage on language, cognitive development, and school readiness-to our knowledge there has not yet been a systematic review of the literature encompassing the studies that have been generated. Systematic reviews play a critical role in the process of linking research to clinical practice by identifying the best available evidence to answer specific questions (Petticrew & Roberts, 2006). In the present review, we attempt to identify, appraise, and synthesize all relevant LENA studies regardless of design. This review is both timely and relevant, as LENA is an efficient tool for assessing the language environment of young children who may be experiencing language delays, language disorders, and/or the effects of economic disadvantage. As early language deficits and language delay are increasingly correlated with difficulties in early literacy development, school readiness in general, later academic progress, and social, mental health, and employment outcomes (Law, Rush, Schoon, & Parsons, 2009), a device that helps shed light on language progress variables is invaluable.

In the case of children with hearing loss, the early language environment is an area of particular concern. One of the most profound achievements of a child's early years is the seemingly inconspicuous development of the language system to which the child has access. For children with access to sound, listening to spoken language helps them develop a functional knowledge of its phonological structure, a familiarity with its syntax and the nuances of how that language is used. With instruction in the early school years, this knowledge is used to help children understand the alphabetic principle-to learn to decode and comprehend text. English is a language system that links printed letters and words to the phonemes underlying spoken language. In this sense, spoken language is an important foundation for learning to identify written words and understand text. For children with hearing loss and limited access to the phonemic properties of English, encoding print will be more challenging (Lederberg, Schick, & Spencer, 2013). Our particular interest in the early language-learning environment of deaf children who use cochlear implants led us to explore the use of LENA technology and thus the research base on which it is built. …

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