About the HABLA lab

The Human Abilities in Bilingual Language Acquisition lab is in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas at Austin. Three faculty in the department are affiliated with the HABLA lab: Lisa Bedore, Liz Peña (publications), and Li Sheng. Anita Perez  is a research associate who works full time on NIH and Department of Education funded projects. We have several collaborators who also work on many of these projects including Ron Gillam, Swathi Kiran, and Zenzi Griffin.

The focus of our work is understanding how bilinguals organize and access their two language systems. The focus of this inquiry ultimately is understanding the nature of language breakdowns associated to language impairment.


LEADER, Language Evaluation, and Development in Educational Research

This project will support 6 doctoral students who are interested in careers in higher education. The training focus is on working with ELLs (in any disorder area) with a secondary focus on measurement (assessment, intervention).  Contact Dr. Anita Perez (anita.perez@austin.utexas.edu) for more information.

Language and Literacy Intervention

This project focuses on development of effective interventions for bilingual children with risk for language or reading difficulties at first grade. Funded by the NIDCD the focus is on comparing language of instruction and mixed reading- and language-based intervention.  Bedore (PI) & Peña (co-PI) (2010-2015).

Cross-Language Outcomes of Language Impairment

The purpose of this project is to better understand patterns of growth in phonology, semantics, and grammar within and between languages in children with language impairment. We are interested in how relative exposure to two languages impacts language growth in these children. We will also examine patterns of short-term learning relative to child language ability and exposure to two languages.

The research project is funded by the NIDCD. Peña (PI), Bedore (co-PI) and Griffin (co-PI).  (2010-2015).

Test Development

The Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (Peña, Gutierrez-Clellen, Iglesias, Goldstein, & Bedore) was funded by a contract from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (PI: Iglesias, Co-PIs: Peña & Gutierrez-Clellen). The goals of the project were to:

1. Identify typical language milestones in Latino Spanish-English children

2. Identify markers of language impairment in Spanish-English bilingual children

3. To develop a test for bilingual Spanish-English speakers ages 4 to 6.

The BESA is a diagnostic test with four main sections in Spanish and English: Morphosyntax, Semantics, Phonology, and Pragmatics. It is available for clinical use and you can purchase it from our publisher.

We will make the longer experimental version available for research projects on request.

Currently, we are developing an upward extension of the BESA for children ages 7 to 9. This project, Phenotype Assessment Tools for Bilingual Children (PI: Peña, Co-PI: Bedore), is funded by the NIH, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The upward extension is not yet available for clinical purposes but it is available for research projects on request.

Diagnostic Markers of Language Impairment in Bilingual Children

This project is currently being conducted at UT Austin (Peña & Bedore) and Utah State University (Gillam). A total of 1,500 Latino children will be screened in preschool. A subset of bilingual children will then be tested in kindergarten and first grade. We are interested in learning about how children’s two languages change over time and in finding the best ways to differentiate between typical bilingual children and bilingual children with language impairments.

Validation of a Language Use Questionnaire across Bilingual Populations

This project is funded by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (PI: Kiran, Co-PIs: Bedore, Peña, & Marquardt). The purpose is to examine the validity of a language use questionnaire in development, which will be used across language combinations (English-Spanish, Hindi-English, and Russian-English). The questionnaire is expected to be applicable across clinical populations (bilingual LI, bilingual aphasia). At this time, we are testing bilingual adults. Responses on the language use questionnaire will be evaluated against performance on quantitative language measures such as category generation, narrative story retell and picture naming.

Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic assessment uses a test-teach-retest method to determine language ability. For children from diverse backgrounds this approach works to improve diagnostic accuracy and limit bias. Because dynamic assessment incorporates teaching into the assessment process it can be used to inform intervention. The study of dynamic assessment as applied to language assessment was first funded by a grant, the Nature and Measurement of Modifiability(Peña) from the NIH, NIDCD. Under this project Liz Peña compared different intervention methods for improving children’s vocabulary learning skills. In collaboration with Ron Gillam, she worked on adapting the dynamic assessment procedure to narrative assessment. Currently, dynamic assessment is being studied for use with English language learning children as part of the Diagnostic Markers of Language Impairment in Bilinguals project (funded by NIDCD).

Where can you find us?

CMB 3.110