Tackling Acquisition of Language in Kids (TALK) Initiative


TALK Initiative logo.Approximately 10% to 20% of children over the age of 18 months who are not meeting expressive language milestones receive a diagnosis of “late talking,” also known as late language emergence. Children may be at higher risk for late talking for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, preterm birth, exposure to maltreatment or trauma, or intellectual and developmental challenges. Other children may present as late talkers for no known reason and with no other symptoms.

The NIH-wide TALK initiative supports activities to better understand early language development and the learning trajectories and needs of late-talking children. A more robust knowledge base will better inform parents and other caregivers, clinicians, public health officials, and others regarding the nature, extent, interventions, and developmental courses of this unique population.

The TALK initiative will expand the study of language development to a broader range of populations and identify potential risk factors for late talking. Its three primary goals include:

  • Create longitudinal data sets: TALK will bring together existing data on late-talking children and collect new data to inform how late-talking children develop language skills over time.
  • Develop novel approaches: The TALK initiative will expand the toolbox of available assessments and improve the design of research studies to improve interventions.
  • Translate research into practice: The TALK initiative will help develop and disseminate evidence-based practices to guide parents, caregivers, educators, and health care providers in supporting late-talking children.

This initiative, launched in 2023, is already supporting new research projects and adding supplemental funds to existing projects to inform our understanding of the needs of late-taking children more quickly. The TALK initiative intends to rapidly share data and results to foster a rich and more diverse knowledge base in this area.

Topic Areas

  • Enhancing the assessment of child language and its development
  • Adding assessment timepoints to standard studies
  • Identifying measures/factors that best predict and characterize differential trajectories across subgroups of late-talking children
  • Expanding population diversity of existing research cohorts
  • Comparing new datasets with existing datasets of late-talking populations
  • Investigating developmental sequelae of late talking
  • Examining cognitive, linguistic, social, cultural, socio-environmental, geographic, environmental, instructional, or neurobiological predictors of trajectories of late talking
  • Assessing the impact of service accessibility and delivery on trajectories and outcomes of late-talking children
  • Archiving existing datasets of late talkers to encourage secondary analyses

Leadership & Collaborators

The TALK initiative is an NIH-wide collaboration, jointly led by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and NICHD, with representatives from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS); the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

NIH TALK co-leads: Judith Cooper (NIDCD) and Virginia Salo (NICHD)

Additional NIH collaborators include (by institute, in alphabetical order by last name):

  • NIDCD: Lisa Kopf, Cathy Rowe, Elka Scordalakes-Ferrante, Holly Storkel, Samantha Temchin, Becky Wagenaar-Miller
  • NICHD: Julia Garside, Shirley Huang, Brett Miller
  • NCATS: Tiina Urv
  • NIMH: Lisa Gilotty
  • NINDS: Kristi Hardy

More Information

  • TALK Initiative Funding Opportunities:
    • PAR-24-045: Leveraging Extant Data to Understand Developmental Trajectories of Late Talking Children (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
    • PAR-24-046: Information and Practice Needs Relevant to Late Talking Children (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
    • NOT-DC-24-010: Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Tackling Acquisition of Language in Kids (TALK) R01 Research Projects
    • NOT-DC-23-005: NOSI: Administrative Supplement for TALK Initiative (Expired)
  • TALK-Relevant Funding Opportunities:
    • PAR-24-243: Advancement and Innovation in Measurement of Language Development and Predictors (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
    • PAR-24-244: Advancement and Innovation in Measurement of Language Development and Predictors (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • TALK Initiative Funded Projects
  • Contacts (in alphabetical order by institute/center):
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