I'm a title. Click here to edit me.
Work package 6 meeting
By Solange Ariel Andrea Santarelli, Konstantina Olioumtsevits, and Jasmijn Bosch The members of Multimind’s work package 6, focusing on multilingualism in migration settings, met in Palermo from 13th to 16th September 2021. During this work package meeting, we visited several schools and organisations working with migrants, worked on a collaborative project, and presented our ongoing research. First of all, we had the opportunity to visit CPIA (Provincial Centre for Adult Education) Nelson Mandela. CPIA are state schools that offer education services and activities to Italian and foreign students aged sixteen and above, aiming to encourage the personal, cultural, social and economic growth of all citizens. In 2018, 90% of the students attending CPIA’s classes in Palermo were foreigners, both long-term non-native speaker residents and migrants, and till today they represent the majority of students attending this kind of school. Particularly, CPIA Nelson Mandela is the main beneficiary of the research project of Solange Santarelli (ESR13) as well as the non-academic organisation where her research is conducted. During our visit to CPIA, we held a meeting with the director, Giuseppina Sorce, and several teachers of the school to present our projects and some preliminary findings. Furthermore, Professor Federico Faloppa, the leader of WP6, presented a research paper on multilingualism (“Is Multilingualism the key competence?”), a targeted study on multilingualism among the partner organisations of the Key-Co System Project, in which CPIA was also involved (the paper can be downloaded here: https://www.keycosystem.eu/research-paper-on-multilingualism/). During the meeting, we had the chance for fruitful exchanges with the teachers, about their personal experiences teaching in multilingual and multi-level classrooms, as well as the difficulties educators might encounter while teaching multilingual students with a migration background. We also presented the projects of WP6 at ItaStra, the Italian School for Foreigners of the University of Palermo led by the sociolinguist Professor Mari d’Agostino. It was an interesting occasion to exchange ideas on our projects and our research topics at large. The ItaStra team also presented their latest project (“Con lo sguardo di chi arriva’ or ‘From the view of who arrives’): a series of storytelling and communication workshops for newly arrived migrants. The first aim of the workshops is to look at the city of Palermo from the perspective of a migrant, in order to conduct an ethnolinguistic study of this city. At the same time, the project aims to give newly arrived migrants the opportunity to discover new places in the city, after having spent months in reception centres or on the streets under the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of their presentations, the ItaStra team took us on a sociolinguistic tour of the city centre of Palermo, in search of traces of different languages, together with a group of young migrants. The tour ended with a visit to Centro Astalli, a reception Centre for migrants and an association for the defence of human rights, which offers several services to protect vulnerable people, striving for the inclusion of migrants in the host society. Moreover, we had the opportunity to talk with Alice Argento, a lawyer who works for CLEDU, the Legal Clinic for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law of the University of Palermo. CLEDU offers legal support to migrants and helps them prepare for the meeting with the Territorial Commission to which they have presented their request for asylum or a residence permit. We also had a meeting with Fausto Melluso, a representative of Palermo City Council and the former President of the association Arci Porco Rosso, an association which is located in Ballarò, a working class area of Palermo where people are at high risk of social exclusion, and which is open to anyone who seeks for help. Arci Porco Rosso fights for the defence of human rights and the freedom of movement, and against racism in any form. During our stay in Palermo, we also had the chance for several internal meetings, in which we discussed the general progress in our work package and our training needs. We also worked on our collaborative research project, in which we investigate Italian, Greek and Dutch primary school teachers’ attitudes toward multilingualism and their experiences teaching in multilingual classrooms. Finally, we brainstormed about possible future workshops that we could organise for different groups of teachers, to provide training regarding translanguaging approaches and multilingualism in the classroom. All in all, this work package meeting has not only been very productive, but it has also been a very inspiring experience, in which we had the opportunity to communicate our work to different stakeholders, while we learned about the reality of the life of migrants in Palermo. We thank the several organisations that welcomed us for this valuable exchange.
Logopedia e bilinguismo - scambio esperienze online
On 13th July 2021 the online meeting (in Italian) on multilingualism with SLTs "Logopedia e bilinguismo - scambio esperienze online" took place. It was organized by Bilingualism Matters Branch "Bilinguismo Conta" from the University Milan-Bicocca (including our ESRs Jasmijn Bosch and Maren Eikerling) in collaboration with and Maria Luisa Lorusso from IRCCS E. Medea. After a short introduction on the topic of multilingualism and how to deal with it in the context of speech therapy diagnostics and intervention by Maria Luisa Lorusso, the almost 30 participants were divided into 2 groups. In break-out rooms, they were able to reflect on their own experiences in relation to multilingualism in clinical practice and share challenges and positive experiences with colleagues. This led to an exchange of helpful materials as well as reflections on the influence of political decisions on everyday clinical practice and perspectives for the future. Both, the introductory slides and an overview of the reflections in the breakout-rooms is available as PDF (in Italian).
Talk on bilingualism in the brain during the Brain Awareness Week 2021 (Týden mozku 2021)
Michal Korenar (ESR3) The 22nd Týden mozku (= Brain Week festival) commenced on March 15 and was concluded on Sunday, March 21. The event was organized by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (AVCR) in cooperation with the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Czech Republic and the Czech Society for Neurosciences. It was part of Brain Awareness Week (BAW), a global campaign to raise public awareness of the successes and benefits of brain research. The main pillar of the festival are traditionally popular-science lectures from leading Czech experts in the field of theoretical and clinical neuroscience. Among the invited speakers this year, Michal Korenar (ESR3) gave an on-line talk titled Bilingualism: conflict for which your brain will thank you. In his lecture, he discussed how bilingualism trains our brains, why bilingual speakers tend to be more creative, have improved attention and the ability to resolve conflict, and how multilingual knowledge delays the manifestations of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. The talk included presentation of data collected within the MutliMind project. His talk was followed by discussion with the public. 300 participants attended Michal’s talk, i.e. the maximum allowed. Also, three more talks were presented by researchers from the MultiMind’s partner institution Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC). Among these, prof. Irena Rektorova offered insights into Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and Lubos Brabenec together with Jaroslav Tocik discussed the neuroscience of language. Part of the program was a virtual tour of CEITEC and its state-of-the-art neuroscience facilities. Thousands of participants from broad public attended dozens of popular lectures, memory training, virtual tours and films. For the first time in its history, due to the current pandemic, the festival took place completely online. As a result, the lectures and the accompanying program were available access-free to an even larger audience interested in news in brain research and neuroscience. The lectures will be available online via the YouTube channel of the AVCR. Link: http://www.tydenmozku.cz/program/akce?id=111&a=dvojjazycnost-konflikt-za-ktery-vam-mozek-podekuje YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/Akademiev%C4%9Bd%C4%8Cesk%C3%A9republiky/videos
DEVELOPMENTAL LANGUAGE DISORDER DAY 2020
On the occasion of last year’s Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) Awareness Day on October 16th 2020, the ESRs Maren Eikerling and Theresa Bloder organized a virtual Lunch-Time Talk on the topic of multilingualism and DLD. The aim was to provide information about the disorder and to offer a platform for interdisciplinary exchange among professionals from different disciplines (speech therapists, educators, teachers, etc.), parents of affected children, and anyone with a particular interest in the topic. Furthermore, the two ESRs created an informational brochure on this topic to draw even more attention to the widespread but among the general public little addressed problem of language acquisition. The goal is to provide the general public with evidence based information and to raise awareness of DLD especially in the multilingual population. The brochure targets parents, teachers and clinical staff alike and besides information on the difficulties of adequately assessing/ detecting DLD in multilingual children provides tips on how to support and promote healthy multilingual language acquisition. Since October 2020, the materials have been translated to 6 languages (German, English, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, and Polish) and are available on the Multimind website. We’d like to thank everyone who was involved in the translation process, especially Sofía González Castro (Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Kraków), Aylin Öybey (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen), and Aleksandra Syczewska (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg). If you want to get involved in translating the brochure to yet another language, please feel free to reach out to the ESRs.
Q&A-events “Raising bilingual children”
Q&A-events “Raising bilingual children” by the Bilingualism Matter group at University Milan-Bicocca MultiMind ESRs Jasmijn Bosch and Maren Eikerling organized four Q&A events (2 in English, 2 in Italian) on raising bilingual children, in which parents could ask their questions on bilingualism and share their experience in raising bilingual children. These Q&A events were organized for small groups of 10 people maximum. They took place on the International Mother Tongue Day (21.02.2021) to acknowledge bilingualism as an enriching factor for society and on the European Day of Speech and Language Therapy (06.03.2021) to raise awareness for a careful distinction between a language disorder and language difficulties due to unbalanced, bilingual language exposure. After a short introduction of the group and general information on bilingualism and bilingual child language acquisition, participants asked questions regarding the situation in their families. The participants appreciated the chance to exchange thoughts and experiences with other parents in similar situations and were reassured by the presenters about the positive impact of bilingualism. These events were motivated by many questions received by the Bilingualism Matters group at the University of Milan-Bicocca during the European Researchers’ Night in November 2020. A leaflet answering these most frequently asked questions on bilingualism has been published in Italian and English.
New methodologies for investigating heritage speakers and their languages
Summary of "Current trends and emerging methodologies in charting heritage language bilingual grammars" chapter in The Cambridge Handbook of Heritage Languages and Linguistics Post by Grazia Di Pisa The field of heritage language acquisition has emerged in earnest over the past two decades as part of a wave of expansion in investigating bilingual language scenarios beyond the two previously widely studied cases: (i) simultaneous child bilingual (2L1) development and (ii) non-native adult second language (L2) acquisition. Whereas 2L1 development tends to follow qualitatively similar paths and developmental milestones to monolingual children, adult L2 learners are often significantly different in developmental sequencing and outcomes. But what about heritage speakers? Let’s first start by explaining who are heritage speakers and why it is important to study this population. Heritage speakers are a special type of early bilinguals, typically children of first-generation immigrants born in a bilingual environment. Heritage speakers acquire the heritage language, which is not the society’s majority language, as their first language at home, usually from their parents. At the same time or when they start going to kindergarten or school, they are increasingly exposed to the language of the society, which will often become the dominant or majority language in adult age. Despite being L1 speakers of the heritage language, heritage speakers can diverge from their monolingual peers in terms of linguistic knowledge and language use. For example, a heritage speaker may be quite comfortable talking about everyday topics but lack vocabulary on subjects that go beyond personal experiences and themes. Understanding how and why heritage grammars develop the way they do, inclusive of what variables predict outcomes at the individual level, can offer profound insights for linguistic theory in general as well as for challenges related to language maintenance, contact, policy and contribute to our general understanding of the bilingual brain. However, capturing what heritage speakers actually know about (one of) their heritage grammar(s) is especially challenging for various reasons related to their experiences with their HL, how we test such knowledge and the interface of the two. In this chapter, we start by reviewing what has already been done in recent years in the field of heritage language bilingualism to take stock of where we are at methodologically. We first give an overview of studies that used offline/behavioural methods, for example, acceptability judgment tasks, comprehension tasks, production (elicitation tasks and natural corpora) and recognition tasks, to investigate this population’s explicit knowledge about their heritage language and then we place a special emphasis on newer online methods, such as self-paced reading tasks, masked priming tasks, eye-tracking, and the electroencephalography (EEG) methodology, used recently to the domain of HL bilingualism. We believe online methods tapping into heritage speaker’s implicit knowledge are particularly suited to uncover the underlying basis of individual differences in heritage speaker outcomes as well as to capture more automatic indexes of processing, giving us a more direct access to how language processing unfolds in real time. Bayram, F., Di Pisa, G., Rothman, J., & Slabakova, R. (2020). Current trends and emerging methodologies in charting heritage language bilingual grammars. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/pa83g
A two-day workshop on “Education of migrant and refugee children”
Post by Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despina Papadopoulou (Aristotle University Of Thessaloniki) The ESR14 team based at AUTh, Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despina Papadopoulou, in collaboration with the Linguistics Lab of AUTh and UNICEF, organized a two-day workshop on “Education of migrant and refugee children”. The workshop took place in Thessaloniki, 30 November 2019 and 1 December 2019. Teachers working in formal and non-formal education as well as students attended the workshop. In total there were approximately 30 attendees. The topics of the workshop included: (a) grammar teaching in the second language, (b) techniques and strategies on language and literacy enhancement, (c) an overview of similarities and differences between Greek and the migrants’ and refugees’ most common L1s (Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish), (d) intercultural awareness. Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despin Papadopoulou were involved in the session of grammar teaching in the second language, discussing several interventions that have been found to be effective in the field. Despina Papadopoulou (left picture) and Konstantina Olioumtsevits (right picture)
Secondment at “Politecnico di Milano”: Tutoring in the course “Advanced User Interfaces”
(cooperation with Prof. Franca Garzotto, Francesco Vona and colleagues from i3Lab, Politecnico, Milan) Post by Maren Rebecca Eikerling (IRCCS - Associazione La Nostra Famigli 'Istituto scientifico Eugenio Medea') From October 2019 to January 2020, I did my part-time secondment at “Politecnico di Milano”, a university specialized in the field of technology based in Milan. Along with PhD students and post-docs from the Politecnico-based i3Lab (Innovative Interactive Interfaces Laboratory), Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, I was a tutor in the project course “Advanced User Interfaces”. Twice a week I met a group of students during class or in the lab to work together on the project that was assigned to them: building the open-source web-app, that we can use for the implementation of our multilingual screening batteries to identify the risk of developmental dyslexia/language disorders in bilingual children. The idea to build a web-app instead of a native app that can be locally installed on devices and used also offline was based on the idea to make the web-app accessible independently of operating systems (e.g. Windows vs. iOS). The group of 8 master students consisted of designers, web-designers and programmers coming from 4 different countries using 3 different writing systems – the MultiMind spirit of interdisciplinarity and multilingualism was absolutely met and we learned a lot from each other. Since the field of language research and disorders was totally new to the students, the idea of creating tests to be used in clinical contexts was very different from projects they had been working on before (i.e. creating entertaining games for children). At the same time, I learned a lot about the logic that needs to be applied to build an app, about how many layers there are behind displaying the tasks and about the various steps to be followed to create the different parts of the web-app: therapist/admin interface and the actual test to be carried out on the computer/tablet with the children.
This also meant, that sometimes we were walking a thin line between paradigms that seem to be most revealing for the identification of a risk of developmental dyslexia/developmental language disorders in bilingual children and paradigms that allow for a simple solution in terms of implementation in the web-app. Since the project in which I am working on the development of screening batteries for different language pairs is still ongoing, we decided to create a web-app that allows for modification over time. This means that while stimuli for some screening batteries are still under development, we can start using the system with the sets of tasks that are ready to use and add others later.
There are two different versions to assess the system: While the “admin” is enabled to upload stimuli (audios, pictures and writings), to create items (e.g. stimulus: audio, target/distractors: pictures) and to combine them into sets of tasks, the “therapist” can play the test without beingable to modify them, manage basic anamnestic data of the participant (in-/exclusion criteria, age, gender, languages spoken) and access the results of the tasks performed. The performance of the child in the screening is evaluated through response time and accuracy that is automatically stored for each single items, but is also accessible in an aggregated form (mean reaction time, X out of Y items correct) for research purposes. For the tasks that were performed using E-Prime in previous data collections (i.e. judgement, self-paced reading, matching tasks) the implementation into the web-app allowing for the creation of more tasks in the course of the project was not always easy but pretty straightforward. By contrast, the implementation of automatic speech recognition systems for nonword repetition tasks and dynamic assessment (learning novel words/letters) to evaluate the amount of input required before being able to recognize and produce the novel words/letters was more demanding. My task was to introduce my project and its goals to the students and explain how they would be contributing. Despite their thorough understanding of the technological aspects, unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to deepen their knowledge on language & reading disorders and bilingualism right from the start. In the end, this sometimes turned out to be a difficulty when implementing the tasks into the app and designing the interface. This meant that while developing the web-app, more and more relevant information on the topics of bilingualism and language & reading disorders were revealed and the tasks and interface were modified accordingly. Explaining the rationale and goals of the project along the implementation actually turned into some teaching experience for me. Besides those content-wise doubts, there were also some technical demands that could not be immediately met. Apart from the speech recognition also the looping for the dynamic assessment tasks was challenging. Even though the system already gives a lot of flexibility to the admin in terms of item, task and test creation, there are still some constraints. I am very happy about the collaboration with Politecnico to be ongoing - within the next months we will work closely together: through experience during current piloting of the web-app, I will be able to provide feedback which will result in modification and improvement of the web-app on the long-term. I gained experience in teaching and also addressing demands and needs very clearly. Choosing a way to implement the tasks chosen for the screenings into the web-app, I actually got to look at them from a new perspective. In general, it was very helpful to look at the whole project from the students point of view, having to question and explain all the decisions taken so far. I would like to thank all the students for their endless effort and Franca, Francesco and their colleagues from the HocLab for having given us the chance to create this web-app and for their big support!
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds in India learn best in multilingual classrooms
Post by Jeanine Treffers-Daller (University of Reading) How can we create learning environments that allow multilingual children to give full expression to their capacity to learn? This was the key question that was discussed in Hyderabad at the final dissemination event of the ESRC/DFID funded project on Multilingualism and Multiliteracy in primary schools in India (Multilila), which took place at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad (India) from 10-12 February 2020, organised by Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay from EFL-U and Amy Lightfoot from the British Council. It has been known for many years that multilingual children in primary schools in India do not always benefit from being multilingual in the same way as children in other contexts. The Multilila project was set up to discover the reasons why this is the case and develop recommendations for practitioners in schools, as well as local, regional and national policy makers. This four-year project is now close to completion: The 2500 children who took part completed 14 different tasks focusing on language and literacy skills in English and school languages, maths, cognitive skills. The children came from low socio-economic backgrounds and attended schools in slum and non-slum areas in Delhi, Hyderabad (Telangana) and Patna (Bihar). Dr Praggya Singh from the Central Board of Secondary Education in Delhi explained that many children in India are in English-medium education because the parents believe that knowledge of English will give children a headstart in life. The outcomes of the project showed that this was not the case for the low SES children in the project. Professor Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge), who leads the Multilila project, explained that children who were in schools where the home language was used as a medium of instruction were better at solving mathematical word problems. For this type of maths problem, children need to extract the underlying mathematical operation from a story. This is difficult if the school language is English, as this is not spoken at home in low SES families. Ianthi concluded: “The results from the project show that children are more successful in maths, and that their knowledge of language and literacy (English and home language) is equally good if English is taught as a subject but is not medium of instruction.” Another key finding of the project is that children who speak more than one language at home had higher scores in problem solving and working memory tasks. During the panel discussion with Language-in-Education policy makers, facilated by Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti from the British Council India, Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading) explained that this is likely due to the fact that multilingual children frequently switch between languages: this “gymnastics for the mind” gives them an advantage in non-linguistic cognitive tasks, such as problem solving and tasks which place heavy demands on working memory. Teachers in English-medium schools were found to use more than one language in the classroom to facilitate learning. Using English only was not an option in most of the classrooms due to low levels of knowledge of the language. As Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz) put it in his summary of the views of the teachers: “Schools do not need to choose between English and the regional language. They can use both in the classroom.” The 180 teachers who attended the dissemination event overwhelmingly supported the recommendations from the Multilila project that the children’s home languages should be used in the classrooms to support learning. They also said that multilingual teaching materials and multilingual assessments were urgently needed to measure students’ achievements. This view was also supported by Dr Professor Victoria Murphy (Oxford), who gave a keynote address at the event on the global proliferation of English-Medium Education (EMI). Victoria explained that EMI can work, but only if key conditions for its successful implementation are fulfilled. These include: high English proficiency levels of teachers and students and pedagogical practices that support student-centred learning. The challenge for India is to create the environments in which successful learning through multiple languages can take place, because an English only approach does not work for children with low SES. New approaches which include story tellings in multiple languages are already being used in primary schools, explained Professor Paul Gunashekar from the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. Teachers present at the event provided many examples of excellent practice that is being shared with other practitioners through the Multilila website. The information will also be fed into the consultation process on the National Education Policy 2020, which will be released in December this year. Examples of good practice in working with Indian children should be shared with teachers and policy makers in the UK who are interested in improving the teaching of learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in the UK. Many of these speak Indian languages (Punjabi, Telugu and Urdu). The Multilila project is led by Professor Ianthi Tsimpli, with the following Co-investigators: Dr Suvarna Alladi (NIMHANS, Bangalore), Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay from EFL-U, Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz), Professor Minati Panda (Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi) and Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading). For more information visit: https://www.mam.mml.cam.ac.uk/ Multilila team Back row: Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay (English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad), Amy Lightfoot (British Council India), Professor Ajit Mohanty (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi), Professor Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge), Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading), Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz)
Front row: RAs and postdoctoral research assistant Dr Anusha Balasubramanian (third from the right) At the Round Table Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti (British Council India), Professor Victoria Murphy (Oxford), Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading), Dr Praggya Singh (Central Board of Secondary Education in India) and Professor Paul Gunashekar (EFL-U, Hyderabad)
Sarah - Secondment in Barcelona
From the end of October 2019 until mid-December 2019, I spent six weeks in Barcelona at the University Pompeu Fabra for my second round of data collection for my project. This time, I was looking for native Italian speakers who just came to Spain and were still learning Spanish. Despite of Barcelona having a population of around 50000 Italian speakers, finding them in this city was more difficult than I thought, because a lot of people had been living here for years. I can definitely see why: Barcelona is right next to the sea with beautiful beaches, incredible architecture, interesting and kind people, a wealth of events, museums and history in every corner, but also amazing food. Here in Barcelona, you can practically find everything. While I dove into Spanish culture and absorbed as much as I could, I was conducting experiments in the Centre for Brain and Cognition laboratories at the university under the supervision of Prof. Nuria Sebastian-Galles. I was again looking at how Italian interferes with Spanish in the brain, and whether we can find any measurable effects on response times for this type of interference. My participants had highly different backgrounds, but they all took the time to come to the lab for me to measure their brain activity while there are processing short sentences and naming objects in Spanish, for which I am very grateful. I gained inside into the procedures of a different lab and learnt a lot about data collection abroad. All of this would have not been possible without the great people in the lab, who made me feel welcome from the first moment onwards.
Michal - Secondment at the University of Bangor
By Michal Korenar When I arrived in Bangor in Wales, I was stroke by the natural beauty this lovely place has to offer. Green meadows, happy sheep and the Welsh seashore with dozens of bird sorts marked a start of every day of my secondment at Bangor University. As much as I was grateful that I could do my first secondment in such a lovely environment, the choice for the Bangor University was not motivated merely by the beautiful nature. Wales is a country with two official languages, Welsh and English, where research on multilingualism has its obvious relevance. In the ERP lab of Guillaume Thierry, they focus on how knowledge of more languages impacts on our cognition, but also how the use of various languages changes the way we experience the world. Prof Guillaume Thierry was teaching me how to use the method of encephalography. At the day when I arrived, he introduced me to his colleague Dr Yang Li. After electrifying discussions about our research interests, we decided to set up a brand-new study rather than getting involved in one of the ongoing projects in the lab. Our study investigates a so far unexplored three-way relationship between attention, bilingualism, and emotion. I gained first-hand experience of how setting up a new project works in Thierry’s lab. This allows me to compare different approaches to scientific work across various places. Our collaboration proved a success as we were able to create the experimental design, use corpus analysis to select the language stimuli for our experiment and collect the data of 23 participants during my six-weeks stay in Bangor. The lovely people in the lab have made this challenging journey an enjoyable experience as they opened not only the doors to their lab but also their hearts.
Day Trip to the hospital and research center
IRCSS Medea/La Nostra Famiglia, Bosisio Parini
Post by Maren Eikerling (IRCCS - Associazione La Nostra Famigli 'Istituto scientifico Eugenio Medea') Half of the Training School in Como was already over when the students met early Thursday morning to catch the bus to visit the hospital and research center IRCSS Medea/La Nostra Famiglia in Bosisio Parini - located in Northern Italy, in the middle of the countryside between the Lake of Como and Milan, surrounded by lakes, forests and mountains. In the institute, researchers and clinicians’ work focuses on the diagnosis and rehabilitation of children with impairments of diverse causes and extents. The visit to the institute consisted of two parts: the morning sessions focused on the role of multilingualism within Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) services, whereas in the afternoon, visits to different labs around the campus gave impressions on the multidisciplinary work carried out in the institution. Maria Luisa Lorusso presented the results of a previous project carried out by her and the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) Sofia Limarzi on SLT practice with multilingual children. In her presentation, she discussed different treatment approaches and addressed problems that SLPs face when treating multilingual children. She reported findings from scientific literature as well as observations derived from the results of a survey completed by SLPs working in the institute. In contrast to the recommendations found in scientific literature, SLPs hardly manage to integrate elements of the first language of their patient. Videos recorded during treatment sessions of three different bilingual children treated in the institute showed some examples of bilingual as well as cross-linguistic intervention and assessment procedures and gave some insight into the SLP’s work. The students discussed further difficulties concerning the treatment of bilingual children with the SLPs working in the institute: Not only the identification of clinical markers in languages they don’t speak is difficult, but even extracting them from scientific literature and design the tasks for the treatment sessions accordingly is very time-consuming an thus hardly feasible in everyday practice.
Overwhelmed with the choice of “primo”, “secondo” and “dolce” (1st and 2nd course, dessert) in the refectory during lunch time, the students took a little break strolling around playgrounds and football fields on the campus before starting the tour with visits to the different labs.
In the so-called “Grail” and “Astrolab” bioengineers presented, how to use Virtual-Reality-techniques for rehabilitation. Very different treatment and diagnostic approaches were presented in the molecular genetics labs by biologists. Besides that, the students were introduced to fMRI procedures carried out in the institute both in brain/neuro(psychological) research and in clinical diagnosis. In the “Centro Ausili” (Centre for Assistive Technologies), different communication systems for severely motor and/or cognitively impaired children were presented. The technician pointed out, how simple electronic and non-electronic devices can facilitate communication, presenting applications for tablets, computer softwares and eye-tracking procedures for communication purposes. The students got to try computer mice and keyboards that were specially designed to suit the children’s needs, using colours, bigger buttons and simple, user-friendly mechanisms.
At the end of the tour, the students got to visit the Babylab and were provided with information on technologies and current research projects in the field of on neuro-developmental disorders by researcher Chiara Cantiani. Introducing the students to a longitudinal study carried out in the institute starting from infant age, she exemplified the use of the different technologies to assess brain activity as well as motor and behavioural achievements in the typically developing population as well as in children with a clinical diagnosis or with family risk of a neuro-developmental disorder as for example Autism Spectrum Disorder. More information on the institute Association “La Nostra Famiglia” The complex, built in 1963 as a Rehabilitation Center, has become Scientific Institute for Hospitalisation and Treatment (Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) in 1985. The Association’s mission is “To protect the dignity and improve the quality of life, through health and social rehabilitation interventions, of people with disabilities, especially in developmental age and their families”. According to this mission services for diagnosis, rehabilitation and further support for the disabled person and his family is offered. Besides that, research training, dissemination of knowledge is carried out in the research units. The rehabilitation center offers rehabilitation services for interdisciplinary interventions in different sectors (for example, speech therapy, neuropsychological etc.) through weekly visits or high-frequence multi-specialist and/or intensive rehabilitation treatments or in residential form. Scientific Institute for Hospitalisation and Treatment (IRCCS E. Medea, Bosisio Parini) The headquarters of the Institute of Hospitalisation and Treatment (IRCSS) “Eugenio Medea”, the only Italian scientific institute recognised for research and rehabilitation for children has its headquarters in Bosisio Parini. The institute operates at the level of hospitalisation and clinical-diagnostic services operating units and develops scientific research activities in sectors related to diagnostic activities and medical and rehabilitative care. The research activity of the Bosisio Campus is carried out in the department of neurophysiology and a developmental neuropsychiatric and psychopathology center and has in-house hospital activities and extra-hospital activities with an interdisciplinary team (doctors, psychologists, educationalists, speech therapists, etc.) Research activity represents the fields of language and learning disorders and other neurodevelopmental pathologies. E-Health for Neuro-Developmental Disorders The e-health sector arouse from the overlaps of technological development and the growing demand for health services, offering innovative solutions that are also ethically and economically feasable. With better understanding of cognitive and neuropsychological functioning, increasingly sophisticated systems for data collection and measurement of cognitive processes, e.g. language acquisition in typically developing and impaired children, are some of the potentials of the e-health systems. Interdisciplinary teams of clinicians and researchers make it possible to exchange information, support and guide, monitor and intervene, creating the paths to implement health programs by intercepting real social needs. Our research for e-health tools range from new diagnostic systems to rehabilitation, screening and prevention programs, e-learning and the creation of interactive networks. The evaluation and intervention in learning, language and communication disorders, the management of the most complex interactions related to bilingualism, the enhancement of cognitive development in preschool children, are some of the goals of our current and future projects. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqekGS9jVzg