Babies' lip reading could provide insight into the way infants learn to speak a language, according to a new study conducted by a team of Florida scientists.
They found that babies practice lip reading when learning to talk. The new research refutes old beliefs that babies learn to talk only from hearing sounds, as suggested by researchers that conducted the groundbreaking experiments.
The new study, which was lead by developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz, will be published on Monday and shows that around six months, babies begin to practice lip reading in order to begin their cognitive development.
The study was carried out on infants ranging from four to 12 months and was conducted by showing infants videos of women speaking their native language. Scientists tracked the eye movements and monitored the developmental changes in the infants to discover that lip reading is part of speech development.
“Our research found that infants shift their focus of attention to the mouth of the person who is talking when they enter the babbling stage and that they continue to focus on the mouth for several months thereafter until they master the basic speech forms of their native language,” Lewkowicz told The Associated Press.
The babbling stage begins at around six months of age and usually continues until a year.
“The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they’re hearing,” Lewkowicz added.
The research can prove to be vital for diagnosing autism in infants.
Currently autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, but Lewkowicz believes that the research indicates that children who continue to focus on the mouth at 12 months of age and beyond might be struggling with developmental disabilities.
Autism affects on average 1 in 110 children throughout the United States and researchers hope that the new findings will offer signs that can help for earlier diagnosis and intervention.
“The earlier we can diagnose [austim], the more effectively we can ensure the best possible developmental outcomes,” Lewkowicz said.