GCP team among first winners of Bridging the Gap competition

GCP team among first winners of Bridging the Gap competition

Karen Salisbury Henry

An innovative team at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project has won a $10,000 prize from the Bridging the Word Gap Challenge for the design of a communication intervention program that uses a mobile device.

Kathryn Bigelow, assistant research professor, and post-doctoral fellow Dwight Irwin worked with independent programmer Nick Eastwood-Tallmon (formerly with JGCP) to design a mobile app to help parents and caregivers talk to and engage with young children.

The app, TALK Around Town, provides individualized, real-time, location-specific messages to parents to spark parent-and-child communication during community outings. Installed on parents’ smart phones, the app uses GPS technology to trigger an online web portal that sends out real-time, setting-specific communication suggestions to the parent.

TALK Around Town was one of 10 winners in the first round of a three-phrase competition sponsored by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The JGCP team now moves to the next round, the development and testing phase. Pilot testing is underway with six families, English speaking and bilingual, whose children are Early Head Start participants. At the conclusion of the second round, three to five winners will each receive $25,000 and continue to the final phase, which carries a $100,000 grand prize.

The Bridging the Word Gap Challengestems from groundbreaking research conducted by JGCP scientists Betty Hart and Todd Risley. The name refers to the vast difference in the number of words that some children from poverty backgrounds hear by age four compared to those of children from more affluent homes. The competition concludes in March 2017.