Due to the educational and professional experiences I've had over the last few years, early communication has become an area of interest for me. Initially inspired by the work of Doctors Betty Hart and Todd Risley, I have continued to seek out opportunities for research, writing,  and presentations around oral language development and early communication for children with and without disabilities. My current position as an early literacy specialist is one example. This page includes citations for a number of additional examples. 

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Talk to Your Baby Study: An Evaluation of the WIC Early Childhood Language Campaign

This study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational video that encourages parents to talk to their infants that will be shown at WIC clinics across the state of Georgia. Specifically, we are collecting pre-test data on the average vocabulary of 18-23 month old infants to establish a baseline. The WIC clinic will start showing the video while parents wait for their appointment. Six to twelve months after the videos are introduced we will measure the vocabulary of 18-23 month old infants again.

The Effects of Tiered Instruction on Conversational Turn Taking

During the 2009-2010 school year, I piloted a study examining the effects of tiered instruction on the frequency of conversational turn taking for children with and without disabilities in an inclusive preschool program. The elements of the tiered instructional model included universal design for learning, peer mediated instruction, and milieu teaching. Each child was provided with a different level of intervention based on his/her individual needs. I then conducted the study again during the 2010-2011 school year in a different classroom using an increasing intensity across subjects, single subject research design. Results were variable across children; however, the amount of data collected and variables analyzed will lead to a variety of possibilities for future research and writing.

Research Proposal - Lit Review and Methods

Graphed child results with overall trend lines

Universal Design for Learning Fidelity Measure

Naturalistic Language Intervention Study

During the spring of 2007 I was involved in a single subject research project with my advisor Dr. Sanna Harjusola-Webb. The study examined the effects of a naturalistic communication intervention on the language outcomes of 3 preschool boys with autism. We trained seven teachers on the intervention procedures during individualized meetings, and collected data for adult-child interactions in the natural environment over a period of 6 months. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention and reveal a relationship between teacher fidelity and child communication.

Graphic results summary


Last Minute Gift Idea: Promoting Vocabulary Development

Robbins, S.H. (2013, December). Last minute gift idea: Promoting vocabulary development [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.b2kcentral.com/b2k-blog/last-minute-gift-idea 

The Effects of Teacher Training on Teacher Delivered Opportunities for Expressive Communication in Young Children with Autism

Sanna Harjusola-Webb, & Sandra Hess Robbins, 2011

(Topics in Early Childhood Special Education,

Abstract: This study examined the effects of a teacher training package on the teacher-delivered naturalistic communication-promoting intervention and the expressive communication of three preschool-aged boys with autism spectrum disorders. Growing numbers of children with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, attend community-based and inclusive preschool settings, and the present study provides information on how to support positive adult child social-communicative interactions by embedding noninvasive strategies in the context of natural environments. In this multiple-baseline study, the teachers received training and support in implementing specific, naturalistic communication-promoting strategies to increase child opportunities for expressive communication. As a result of the training, the teachers increased their use of the intervention strategies, and all of the target children showed increases in the frequency of expressive communication. This study emphasizes the importance of language input and how the level of intervention delivery—in this case, frequency of teacher-provided opportunities for communication—appears to influence child communicative behavior.

The Communication Toolkit

Sandra Hess Robbins & Katie Johnson, 2008

Abstract: The communication toolkit is an easy to understand manual for early childhood practitioners and families. The toolkit provides descriptions and examples of eight simple strategies used to promote communication and language development for young children. Suggestions for variations and adaptations that can be used for children of diverse cultures and abilities are included in the toolkit along with links to short video clips demonstrating the use of the strategies.

Communication Toolkit (DRAFT)

Communication toolkit videos: http://sandrahessrobbins.blogspot.com/


Robbins, S.H., & Hood, J. (2011, December). The building blocks of early communication. Presentation at the Greater Summit County Early Learning Center: Akron, OH.

Building Blocks Slides

Robbins, S.H.  & Hubbell, S. (2010, November). Designing assessment and instruction for young English language learners. Presentation at the National Association for the Education of Young Children National Conference: Anaheim, CA.

English Language Learner Slides

Robbins, S.H., & Jackson, S. & Gongola, L. (2010, November). Universal design for learning: Supporting social communication skills in inclusive preschool classrooms. Presentation at the National Association for the Education of Young Children National Conference: Anaheim, CA.

UDL for Social Communication Slides

Robbins, S.H. (2010, October). The communication toolkit: Supporting language development in inclusive preschool classrooms. Presentation at the Greater Summit County Early Learning Center: Akron, OH.

Robbins, S.H. (2010, April). Using LENA to guide tiered instruction: Promoting conversational turn taking in preschool. Poster presentation at the Language Environment Analysis System conference: Denver, CO.

LENA Poster

Robbins, S.H., & Shumar, M. (2010, April). The communication toolkit: Supporting language development in inclusive preschool classrooms. Presentation at the Ohio Early Care and Education Conference: Columbus, OH.

Communication Toolkit Slides

Robbins, S.H., & Gongola, L. (2009, November). The effects of tiered instruction on preschooler’s social-communication skills. Presentation at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Conference: Columbus, OH.

Tiered Instruction Slides

Robbins, S.H. (2007, November). Naturalistic communication intervention to promote language outcomes for children with autism. Poster presentation at the Division for Early Childhood International Conference, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Communication Intervention Poster