Our Team

The Infant Communication Lab

Director: Jana Iverson, Ph.D.

My research program focuses on relations between early motor development and later-emerging ‘higher-order’ skills (i.e., communication and language). Specifically, I am interested in understanding: a) the way in which development in motor skills provides infants with an increasingly diverse set of opportunities for acquiring and refining abilities that contribute to development in domains such as communication and language and in which delays or deficits in motor skills can exert cascading developmental effects extending well beyond the motor domain; b) the developmental relationship between gesture and speech in children acquiring language typically; c) the extent to which early gesture-speech links are sensitive to variation in input; and d) the nature of early motor and communicative development in children at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). My research uses a variety of techniques, including studying behavior (i.e., grasping, reaching, sitting, crawling, walking, eye gaze, vocalizations, gestures) and movement kinematics (i.e., wrist acceleration, postural sway, standard gait parameters) to understand how movement and communication develop in infants and young children.

I have been at Pitt since 2003 and have been our department's Director of Undergraduate Studies since 2013. I regularly have a large number of graduate and undergraduate students who work in my lab. I received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in 2007 and the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2018. I am a member of the Editorial Boards of Infancy, the Journal of Child Language, and Language Learning and Development, and am regularly on the conference review panels for the Meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development and the International Conference on Infant Studies.

Graduate Students:

(Left to right) Joshua Schneider, Kelsey West and Emily Roemer.

Kelsey West:

My research focuses on how motor skills help infants to learn complex systems of information—like language—through their physical interactions with the learning environment. Consequently, motor delays may have ripple effects on other areas of development. I study these processes in infants who are developing typically, those who have language delays, and in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Emily Roemer:

I’m interested in the development of social communication and how this diverges in infants who go on to have ASD. Specifically, I’m interested in the role of eye contact in parent-infant interactions, and the role of infant communicative behavior and caregiver input in relation to language development. I’m also interested more broadly in early diagnosis and intervention for ASD, and am receiving training through the Clinical Psychology program at Pitt. When I’m not in the clinic or doing research, I enjoy traveling and exploring the outdoors!

Joshua Schneider:

I completed my B.A. at New York University in 2015, where I studied the development of natural walking in infants. Now, as a doctoral student at Pitt, my research focuses on motor skill development (e.g., sitting, crawling, walking) and its cascading effects on other domains of development like communication and language. My current projects investigate individual differences in the transition from crawling to walking, the underlying processes/mechanisms responsible for the development of walking, how caregivers play a role in infant motor skill acquisition, and differences in proficiency of moving using kinematic measures like gait carpets. I examine these research questions in typical infants and in infants at heightened biological risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Undergraduate Assistants:

(Back row, left to right) Mimi Nguyen, Jacinda Arent, Emma Wylie, Yasmine Crawley, Sarah Steward, Emma Cichocki, Bianca Calabretta, Jo Lin, Edward Lin.
(Front row, left to right) Christina Toval, Qi Chen, Miranda Mlincek, Rajat Lahiri, Katie Weidner.
(Not pictured) Alexandria Warner, Alyson Menzies, Alyssa Cooper, Claire Mesko, Eileen Wang, Erin Jarvis, Haarika Chalasani, Ishita Srivastava, Jennifer Weber, Kayla Norton, Rachael Ray, Rachel Walbert, Shutian Shen.


(Left to right) Julija Hetherington: Data Manager, Christen Kraemer: Project Coordinator.

(Not pictured) Kaitlyn Cortez.

Our Collaborators