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ISSUE 3   august 2002  

one On one with Luigi Girolametto and Elaine Weitzman

Dialogue went one on one with Luigi Girolametto and Network partner Elaine
Weitzman in July to discuss how they formed their successful collaboration
and we uncovered some valuable lessons about how they disseminate their
research findings.

Luigi is an associate professor at the University of Toronto in the Graduate
Department of Speech- Language Pathology. In addition to his research, he teaches two courses in child language and is the graduate coordinator for all departmental admissions and awards.

Elaine is Executive Director of The Hanen Centre. The Hanen Centre is a
charitable organization that helps young children with language delays - and
those at risk - to communicate to the best of their abilities. The Hanen
Centre develops leading-edge programs and practical, user-friendly learning
resources for parents, educators and other important people in children's

Luigi and Elaine have collaborated to work on The Network project
Language Stimulation and Intervention in Day
care Centres.

on forming their partnership …

Luigi: Back in the beginning we were both clinicians conducting
parent-training programs at The Hanen Centre. At the same time I was working
on my doctorate, which was focused on researching the effectiveness of a
parent-training program for both children and parents. After graduation I
left The Hanen Centre program to pursue an academic career.

Elaine: We always said that one day we hoped we could work together in
partnership. I knew Luigi would always end up in an academic setting,
teaching and doing research. So when I became Executive Director of The
Hanen Centre we were both in the ideal position to pursue our vision. Luigi
had the ability to do the research and I had the clinical setting.

on why their partnership works so well…

Luigi: One of the great things about working with Elaine is that as the
manager of people and resources she was willing to put them at my disposal.
Elaine made the changes that the science required so that research could
have rigorous control - she provided material and equipment for the intervention and staff resources for the extra assessments of children in control groups. Her
knowledge of research was key to a successful partnership because she
understood that these adaptations were critical to make. And so the combination between the grant funding that I received, and the resources that Elaine contributed resulted in a good marriage.

Elaine: Plus the chemistry  - we like working with each other. That's
critical - you have to have a similar desire and then you have to work well
together. I think we have a good delineation of roles and that has helped.

on moving ahead with their collaborative research…

Luigi: I was a clinician to begin with and so the research focus I took was
clinical. I wanted to do research that would eventually have an impact on
families and their children.

At the time of our first collaboration, I became interested in this group of children who were late talkers  - two year olds who don't talk yet. Parents begin to worry about
them and we know that a proportion of these kids do end up having long-term language problems. When Elaine and I talked about doing further research, it turned out that Elaine also had an interest in this target group. Before we began we made a few changes to the parent program that would target the needs of these children and Elaine put it into practice through her staff. It was quite a joint venture. It was a lot of work and we had many joint meetings to work through the parent program and determine which changes to make and where.

on research findings dissemination…

Elaine: Dissemination of research, by virtue of how The Hanen Centre is
structured, makes it much easier. There are many levels of connection
between The Hanen Centre and the people we train. We talk about the
research. Everybody wants to know, "does the program work?" Our instructors
have the information and when new research comes out we share it with them.
They know the current research and say 'this is what the research has shown
so far'. Then we have lots of articles published on the research so people
have access to that through our Web site. We put all the references in our
training materials. I think we were one of the first not-for-profits, in
this field, to have a Web site. We put the results up on the Web site so
that people have had access to the research. When our members send in
requests asking to know more about the research, we can provide that
information back to them. We've become a resource for our members.

Another method of disseminating communications that we use is newsletters -
that is one of our main ways of communicating with our members. I think now
though that the Web site is going to become more significant.

Now when you go out and disseminate a program in our field - people want to
know that it works. Especially in the United States, if you can't show that
it works - forget it. Feel good is not what they want.

on what happens if research shows a change should occur…

Elaine: This has happened and the results of the research have changed the
way we offer clinical services. If something were going to change in our
methodology, well that would be communicated. Just as an example, in 1994
when Luigi and I started to do our research, the earlier results of the
research showed there was change in the parents and there was change in the
children's social conversational skills, but we couldn't unequivocally show
that the children's language improved. So Luigi came up with some
suggestions for how the program could be adapted and we could measure the
change. We could actually see whether in fact it was effective in changing
children's language. As a result of changes in the program, the research
shows that yes, there were significant differences between experimental and
control groups when we modified the program.

on some successes…

Elaine: I think one of the best things about the research that we did in the 90's
was that it struck a chord with people who were having trouble with a
certain group of children. It's been unbelievably successful in helping the
late talker group of children who have severe expressive delays - it's not
 clear why - but the program was shown to kick-start their language
development process.

Luigi: The payoff was that our results have made an impact on the type of service offered to families of late-talking children, as well as to the content of parent programs that The Hanen Centre is offering to the families of late talkers.

All that happened in the short span of five years, which is miraculous because most researchers don’t see their research results put into clinical practice until 10 or 15 years later.

on transference of your collaborative ideas across Canada…

Elaine: It can happen, I don't see why not. But I think in order for it to
work  - in terms of the organization you link with - you cannot have a whole
bunch of bureaucracy. That was the beauty of what we did and are doing. For
example, Luigi would ask if I could fund a small part of the research, for
something like a student doing transcripts or extra videotaping. And I could
say yes, I can. There weren't levels of people that we had to get through. I
report directly to a Board of Directors. I have a research budget and we
then can make decisions. I don't see why the principle of the researcher/
clinician partnership isn't one that wouldn't be transferable as long as
there aren't too many levels of bureaucracy.

on how The Network can support your work…

Luigi: In general I think the translation of research to practice is
something that researchers typically do in their writing and teaching. I feel lucky to have Elaine and The Hanen Centre to promote the research results a step further, which is to the speech-language pathologists who work in the field.


So, I think there is a definite role for The Network in translating research results for Canadians. The only other piece that The Hanen Program uses is workshop formats for sharing information. Workshops are the piece that is probably missing. It may be hard to implement within The Network, but when someone stands in front of a group of 30 practitioners, interprets the findings and provides information on how one should proceed – well the transfer of information is amazing.

on the translation of research to children's front lines…

Luigi: Ah, we are working on that piece. You know the interesting thing
about conducting research within childcare centres is that there is a lot of literature on how to interact with children but it hasn’t had an impact on the day-to-day work of childcare providers. For example, there are many articles on how caregivers should be asking questions dating back over 25 years ago – they suggest that caregivers should ask open-ended questions and cut down on closed questions. If you go into a childcare centre today the caregivers still don’t know how to ask appropriate questions. So somehow what has been available in the early childhood literature has not been translated to practice yet.

We have had such successes with speech-language pathologists that we are now
beginning to explore how we can translate some of our research into practice within the childcare environment. One of the things we are starting out with is our symposium this
fall http://www.cllrnet.ca/en/news/news_story.php?news_id=35. The symposium is designed to help Elaine and me get some
future directions from senior researchers in the area of daycare and language. Our plan is to hold a workshop subsequent to our fall event in December for individuals in the Toronto area, who educate childcare providers or supervise their work with young children. We are targeting the instructors and consultants and spending a day talking about the research and how they can help translate it to language facilitation in childcare centres. We are starting out with the consultants.

Elaine: We want to get people to understand why the training is so important
and why the literature on language and literacy is not just information
people might like to know  - it is critical information to know. We are
concerned with the lack of knowledge people who work with children all day,
every day have and the lack of training support that is provided to them.

on other interests…

Luigi: We both have dogs. We like sushi - adore it.

Elaine: My job and a family with two kids have been very busy - a lot of
hobbies went by the wayside. Travel is important and I do participate in
some sports.

Luigi: My hobby is research. I used to do wood working and I can hardly
believe it. I haven't touched my workshop in years.


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