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The Neurocognitive Laboratory for Early Childhood: Prevention and Intervention of Learning Disabilities

Head: Dr. Shelly Shaul.

The Neurocognitive Laboratory for Early Childhood: Prevention and Intervention of Learning Disabilities
Dr. Shelley Shaul, her team's and her students' research:
This year Dr. Shaul and her team have continued to research the different topics of interest. The aim of this research lab is to develop early identification tests for at risk children and behavioral and brain-based interventions for at-risk groups. Identification of at risk children and intervention programs before entering the formal schooling will help reduce the amount of learning disabilities and their severity later at school.

They have been analyzing collected data and collecting new data regarding the basic cognitive skills such as perception, attention, speed of processing and working memory and examining the contribution of different cognitive skills to early literacy and early numerical skills.

This year's research has focused of the contribution of working memory and short term memory capacity to early literacy, writing and numeracy skills together with 3 MA students (Dana Arif, Adi Rachbuch and Moram Hatan). We have followed 70 children in kindergarten and are now completing collection of data from them today at the end of grade 1.

In addition to this, a large project together, with Prof. Mila Schwartz, has examined the contribution of executive functions to early literacy skills (one paper has been published and the other submitted in this topic). As well, they are studying Executive Function as a predictor of early reading, writing and mathematical abilities. Data is currently being analyzed.
Dr. Shaul is currently planning a large scale early literacy study together with Prof. Michal Shany which will follow children from kindergarten to Grade 2 and looking at the different types of learning disabilities, as well as examining early literacy skills among Arabic speaking kindergarten children.
This year the lab started to pilot an intervention program, "OR," together with Prof. Tami Katzir and Dr. Orly Lipka. The Or program is designated to promote foundational literacy, cognition and emotion skills to first grade children. Current research findings suggest that these three components are essential to early literacy development, however rarely are they all addressed in a holistic manner.

Their novel concept is to support early literacy through diverse cyclical activities around in depth concepts, which relate to the lives of young children such as friendship, independence, change, stability and diversity. Another concept of the innovative OR program is to create a learning environment that is tailored to each child’s needs. Through story-books children will be divided by learning profiles and needs to participate in activities of language enhancement, phonological awareness, memory, spatial orientation, meta-cognition, group work, etc.
This year Dr. Shaul was an invited, together with Prof. Mark Leikin, to serve as an editor for a special issue in "Reading and Writing Journal." The special issue was entitled: Early literacy skills among monolingual and bilingual children (2014), Vol. 27 (4).

Dr. Shaul is supervising 13 Master's and 3 Doctoral students this year.

As of June 1, 2014 Dr. Shaul started establishing a new laboratory - The Early Childhood Laboratory. Dr. Shaul will be selecting her team and establish goals and research projects starting in the new academic year.