Information for Families Considering Participation

What does my participation in the studies involve?

If you do decide to sign up, your details will be entered into our database. Often we advertise for babies younger than needed as the studies are age specific with a narrow window for testing. When your child reaches an appropriate age for an upcoming study, you will be contacted to arrange a 20-30 minute appointment for you and your baby to visit James Madison University. We will arrange a time that is the most convenient for you and for your baby's daily routine. You will be sent an information sheet via email or post with a letter confirming your appointment, directions to the laboratory, and additional information concerning the study. If you agree to take part in the study, you will be asked to give your consent upon arrival to the lab, prior to participation.

What types of studies are currently ongoing at the Infant and Toddler Language Laboratory?

Speech perception: Many of our infant language studies involving speech perception require a single visit to the campus.  In these studies, your child will be seated on your lap inside a three sided-both and will listen to a recording of a person speaking. Your child’s interest and responses to these sounds will be observed and video-recorded. There are small blinking lights inside the booth that will direct your child’s attention toward the speakers, which are positioned beneath the light. You will be asked to wear headphones playing a recording of jumbled speech. These studies currently involve 8 and 10 month old infants.

American Sign Language: Another type of study involves investigating infant perception of sign language.  In these studies, we are looking for 10 month old infants who have a high exposure to sign language.  These infants may have typical hearing or be deaf. The methods are similar to the speech perception study (described above); however, television monitors presenting American Sign Language will be used instead of speakers.

Can babies be encouraged to babble more?: In this study, we are attempting to encourage babble using an engaging mobile as positive reinforcement. If successful, future studies will be able to study the effect of the increased babbling on language development. This study requires short home visits in which your infant will be videotaped responding to the mobile while they are in their crib.

How the brain processes speech: This study investigates how a baby’s brain begins to process speech sounds. Your baby will wear a cap with sensors that can record how your baby’s brain understands speech. In this study, we are looking for 8-11 month old infants who have normal hearing.

Speech Production: We also have infant and toddler language studies that involve a short (around 30 minute) audio recording of you playing with your child in your home. Your child will wear a special vest containing a radio microphone. You will also have to wear a microphone. Other studies involve your baby wearing a digital recording device made especially for babies throughout the day over a weekend. The device is known as LENA and enables us to record for a much longer period of time and without an observer present. Participation in the studies that take place at the university do not in any way commit you to participation in home-based studies; however, if you express an interest in participating in the home-based studies, more information is readily available to you. We are particularly interested in college educated parent(s) of an only child for these studies.

Can we change our mind?

Taking part in our research studies is always entirely voluntary. Entering your name into our database does not commit you to any study, but allows us to provide you with more information if you express an interest to participate. You are free to withdraw at any time and without reason.

How long do visits last?

The speech perception experiments in the lab on the university campus last approximately 10 minutes, but you should allow about half an hour in total for the visit. If you choose to participate in the home-based study, home visits last between 20 and 45 minutes, depending upon the study.

Will my child’s participation in the research be kept confidential?

Any publication of the data of the findings of this study will maintain strict confidentiality as to your identity and that of your child. You can also choose whether or not to allow your child’s video and audio footage to be used (under a pseudonym) as part of any teaching or research material. All materials are kept in a locked room.

Do I get paid?

You will be paid between $20 and $70 per study to thank you for your time. Parking passes in the lot closest to our building will be provided free of cost.

How can I find the lab at James Madison University?

The Infant and Toddler Research Laboratory is in the office suites for CSD faculty. Full directions will be sent in a letter when an appointment has been made for your visit. Directions to the lab.

What are the possible benefits of taking part?

We hope you will find it interesting and fun to take part in our studies. You will be contributing to our understanding of the very early stages of language development. We will be happy to share results with you if you are interested. Results from the current studies will also be used to guide further research in this field.

I have an older child at home. Can they be present at the sessions?

If you are unable to find anyone to look after your other children during the visit, a graduate student in the department is available to watch your older children. We prefer siblings to be in a separate room (under supervision) during the actual experiments.

My child has someone else looking after them some of the time. Can they be at the sessions instead of me?

It’s absolutely fine for another caregiver (grandparent, aunt, babysitter, etc.) to bring the baby to the session, as long as the child’s parents have signed our consent forms. It is also fine to conduct home sessions with another caregiver.

What happens when the research stops?

If you are interested, we will be happy to send you a summary of our findings when a study is complete. We will also keep your name in our database for future studies.

Is it safe for my child to take part?

Our studies have been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of James Madison University, ensuring that there is no risk of harm to either you or your child. All studies are completely non-invasive. Our infant studies on the university campus involve measuring the response of your infant to sounds or signs. Your baby will be with you for the entirety of the study.

We are a bilingual family. Can we still take part?

Unfortunately, our infant studies are for babies whose primary language is English (or American Sign Language). We are comparing sound patterns across a large group of children, therefore language across the study must remain consistent.

What if my child is ill on the day?

We don't expect you to go ahead with visits if your child is not feeling well. Just call either the lab at (540) 568-3869 or email ahead at and we'll reschedule as soon as your child is feeling better.

I signed up for one of your studies a while ago but I haven't heard anything. Have you forgotten about me?

We want to include as many babies as possible in our studies. Our current studies are suited for infants who are between 8 and 10 months old. If your baby has not yet reached this age range, we will add your information to our database and contact you about any upcoming studies available for your infant’s age.

What if my child is hungry or needs a diaper change during a visit?

We realize that despite your best efforts to make sure a baby is fed and changed before a visit, things may not go as planned. We are happy for you to feed your baby in the lab and you may step out to a restroom to change your baby if necessary.

What if there is a problem?

Any complaint about the way in which you or your child have been dealt with during the study will be addressed. In the event of any complaints arising concerning this research that you don’t feel comfortable discussing with the researcher, please contact:

Dr. David Cockley
Chair, Institutional Review Board
James Madison University
(540) 568-2834