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Overview of our Research

The PAW Lab at RIT is interested in how deaf, heard-of-hearing, and hearing children learn language. We're especially interested in how children under 5 learn new words, and how word learning is influenced by what they pay attention to. 

Our studies involve quick (15-60 minute) visits to RIT or virtual "visits" over zoom. During these visits, your child might watch some short videos, play some short games with our researchers, or read a story with you while we record. Check out our ongoing studies below!


If you're interested in participating in any of our ongoing studies, or want to participate in the future, please contact us at!

All of our studies are approved the the Institutional Review Board at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Third Party Interaction

One place where joint attention might not be so important is in third-party interactions: conversations that are observed/overheard but that one is not a part of. We want to know which features of these interactions support word learning, and which do not. Your child will watch a video of a conversation while we track where they look.

We'll be recruiting 24-36 month-old hearing children for this study soon! Stay tuned! 

Book Reading

We're interested in joint attention between caregivers and children: a social and attentional process that supports word learning. One activity where we see lots of joint attention is during reading. We're looking to describe joint attention during reading with two kinds of books: physical books and eBooks, as well as in two languages: English and American Sign Language. 

Currently, we're recruiting both deaf/hard-of-hearing and hearing children, age 16-48 months, who use English or ASL to communicate at home. 

Word Learning

Sometimes children are presented with new words and but it's not clear what they refer to. Most research on how children figure this out has been on spoken languages like English, but very little has been conducted on sign languages like ASL. Sign languages are perceived in the same modality (visual) as the items that many early words refer to (e.g. juice, ball, chair), so we suspect some of the information deaf children acquiring ASL use might be different from hearing children acquiring English. 

We'll be recruiting 18-48 month old children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing for this study soon! Stay tuned!

Research in a family friendly, deaf-friendly environment

Visits to our lab are designed to be fun! Our studies are based on games and videos that are engaging for little ones. We have toys and books to make the environment comfortable, and you and your child will never be separated during the visit. Our staff are trained to interact and understand children, so we are happy to go at whatever pace they are comfortable with. Our research team is a mix of deaf and hearing folks, and we prioritize communication access for all.

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