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Research Summary on It Takes Two to Talk® – The Hanen Program® for Parents

Parents tell us that the It Takes Two to Talk Program is extremely informative and helpful; they say that they learn some very concrete and practical ways to encourage their child’s communication development – and that they and their child have much more fun together than they did before.

In addition to these changes in their interactions with their child, parents report significant improvements in their child’s communication, interaction and play skills as a result of taking the program. These comments are not surprising when considering the body of research on which the It Takes Two to Talk Program was based, as well as the individual studies conducted on the It Takes Two to Talk Program itself.

The It Takes Two to Talk® Program has been proven to work!

Read further to learn about:

  • The research upon which the It Takes Two to Talk Program is based;
  • Studies on the It Takes Two to Talk Program that show that the program improves children’s ability to interact and communicate

Researched Principles on which the It Takes Two to Talk® Program is Based

The It Takes Two to Talk Program is based on some well-researched principles of intervention:

►Putting the family front and centre

The It Takes Two to Talk Program is a family-centred program, in which parents are involved in their child’s intervention in ways that strengthen their ability to help their child. Parents learn what to do to help their child learn and develop, and the earlier parents are involved in their child’s intervention, the better the child’s outcome.

►Therapy is part of everyday family life

The It Takes Two to Talk Program makes use of everyday activities and interactions within a family’s life. When children learn to communicate in their natural environment in real-life situations with their caregivers, they are more motivated to communicate and are better able to apply their newly-learned skills to other situations.

►Learning to communicate takes place within parent-child interactions

The It Takes Two to Talk Program is based on the view that it is the interaction between adult and child that is the catalyst for the child’s language learning.

This theory is based on the belief that children’s language learning is fostered when the adult:

  • Is very responsive to the child’s communication efforts; and
  • Simplifies and fine-tunes what she says to the child so that the child can understand and learn from it.

►Being responsive to the child is the key

The It Takes Two to Talk Program teaches parents to be responsive to their child. Being responsive means:

  1. Responding promptly (often within 1-2 seconds of a child doing or saying something)
  2. Responding positively – responding in a way that shows the child the parent is really interested in what she or he is saying
  3. Sticking with what the child is “talking” about and not trying to get him interested in something else (e.g., if the child is showing the parent how he can drive his toy car along the kitchen floor, the parent then talks about what he is doing with the car, not the colour of the car or about the toy train)

Studies have shown that, when parents respond sensitively to their children, the children demonstrate:

  • Greater understanding of language at one year
  • More advanced speech and vocabulary development and understanding of language in the second and third year of life
  • Larger receptive vocabulary (understanding of words) at age 12

►In summary

The approach parents learn in the It Takes Two to Talk Program is based on overwhelming evidence that it is the parent-child interaction that provides the context for the child’s language learning and that, when parents are more responsive and fine tune how they talk with their child, children’s communication development is accelerated.

Evidence for the It Takes Two to Talk® Program

Three studies have been conducted on the It Takes Two to Talk Program itself. All three studies involved preschool children (under age 4) and their mothers, who participated in an It Takes Two to Talk program. The behaviour of these mothers and children was compared to groups of mothers and children who were on a waiting list for the It Takes Two to Talk Program (who later received the program).

Study # 1 and #2 on the It Takes Two to Talk® Program
(Girolametto, 1988, Tannock, Girolametto, & Siegel 1992)

In study #1 and study #2, the following results were found for the mothers and children participating in the It Takes Two to Talk Program (vs mothers and children in the control group, who were not involved in the It Takes Two to Talk Program):

  • Mothers became more responsive
  • The children were more assertive, responsive and able to take more turns (both verbally and non-verbally)
  • Mother-child interactions were more balanced, frequent and lasted longer
  • Parents reported improved family relationships

These results showed that the It Takes Two to Talk Program enabled mothers and children to connect and communicate better, providing the children with many more opportunities to learn within these everyday interactions and conversations.

Study #3 on the It Takes Two to Talk® Program (Girolametto, Pearce, & Weitzman, 1996)

Study #3 focused on children aged 23-33 months, who had severely delayed language development. The children could say very few single words and most did not use any two-word phrases.

Inclusion of “target” words

This It Takes Two to Talk Program was the same as previous programs, but had a heightened focus on giving parents ten specific words to repeat frequently during interactions with the child. These words were selected by the speech-language pathologist and researchers based on the child’s interests, stage of development and included those with sounds the child could already make. For example, if the child was heard to use the sound “buh,” the words “ball” and “bang” might be selected if those were considered to be motivating for him to say.

In addition to learning all the responsive strategies, the mothers learned to use these “target” words repetitively during everyday interactions with their child, and to set up routines in which the words could be used again and again. The children were never asked to say the word.

Results

When compared with mothers and children in the control group, who were not involved in the It Takes Two to Talk Program, the mothers and children who participated in the It Takes Two to Talk Program demonstrated the following changes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The It Takes Two to Talk Program “kickstarted” the children’s language development, enabling them to learn words that had not even been “targeted” and to start combining words into sentences. In addition, the children started using more sounds in their words and sentences, making it easier for them to be understood.

Diagram of number of words children could say before and after the It Takes Two to Talk Program.

This diagram shows the difference between the number of words children in the experimental group could say before and after the It Takes Two to Talk Program versus the control group, who did not attend the It Takes Two to Talk Program.

While the control group improved a little (we always expect some improvement due to maturation), the children in the It Takes Two to Talk Program progressed far beyond what can be expected from maturation, demonstrating that the It Takes Two to Talk Program was responsible for this improvement.

In summary

The It Takes Two to Talk Program has been shown to be effective in changing how parents interact with their children, and that children’s communication and language skills improve as a result.

If you are interested in attending an It Takes Two to Talk Program, click here to find one near you.

References

Baumwell, L.B., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S. & Bornstein, M.H. (1997). Maternal verbal sensitivity and child language comprehension. Infant Behavior and Development, 20(2), 247-258.

Beckwith, L. & Cohen, S.E. (1989). Maternal responsiveness with preterm infants and later competency. In M.H. Bornstein (Ed.). Maternal responsiveness: Characteristics and consequences: New directions for child development (pp. 75-87). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1974). Is early intervention effective? (Publication No. (CDH) 74-25). Washington, DC: Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Child Development.

Girolametto, L. (1988). Improving the social-conversational skills of developmentally delayed children: An intervention study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 53, 156-167.

Girolametto, L., Pearce, P. & Weitzman, E. (1996a). The effects of focused stimulation for promoting vocabulary in children with delays: A pilot study. Journal of Childhood Communication Development, 17, 39-49.

Girolametto, L., Pearce, P. & Weitzman, E. (1996b). Interactive focused stimulation for toddlers with expressive vocabulary delays. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 39, 1274-1283.

Olson, S.L., Bayles, K. & Bates, J.E. (1986). Mother-child interactions and children’s speech progress: A longitudinal study of the first two years. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 32, 1-20.

Pepper, J. & Weitzman, E. (2004). It Takes Two to Talk®: A practical guide for parents of children with language delays (2nd ed.). Toronto: The Hanen Centre.

Rollins, P.R. (2003). Caregivers’ contingent comments to 9-month-old infants: Relationships with later language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 221-234.

Rossetti, L.M. (2001). Communication intervention: Birth to three. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group.

Sameroff , A. J. & Fiese, B.H. (1990). Transactional regulation and early intervention. In Meisels & Shonkoff (Eds.). Handbook of early childhood intervention (pp.119-148). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Tannock, R., Girolametto, L. & Siegel, L. (1992). Language intervention with children who have developmental delays: Effects of an interactive approach. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 97, 145-160.