Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Letitia Naigles

Dr. Letitia Naigles is Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut. In addition to acting as the current Head of theDevelopmental Division in Psychological Sciences, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Cognitive Science Program, Dr. Naigles is the Founder and Head of the university-wide Kids In Developmental Science research and recruitment consortium, UConn KIDS.

UConn KIDS, which The Institute has helped support with funding, is a group of researchers from more than 20 child development and behavior labs across the University of Connecticut. Research varies across labs, but all share a focus on child development. A key element to UConn KIDS is the contact database, which houses information from families who have indicated they are interested in participating in child-related research. This contact database eases some of the challenges of participant recruitment for researchers. 


In her research, Dr. Naigles has studied language acquisition with children learning a variety of languages, including English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, Japanese, German, Hindi, and Korean.  More specifically, she has investigated when children demonstrate creativity in language use, especially language comprehension, and how they process their linguistic input while acquiring a specific language.

Dr. Naigles has been engaged for the past 16 years in an intensive longitudinal investigation of the language development of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which has innovated the use of online looking methods to assess language in this population.

Her findings have illuminated which aspects of language seem to be acquired in typical fashion, and which are truly impaired, in children with ASD, providing new directions for treatment and intervention for both therapists and families.  IBACS funding has also enabled Dr. Naigles to begin a new collaboration with Dr. Erika Skoe of SLHS, in which they have established that Auditory Brainstem Responses (ABRs) can be reliably collected from children with ASD in a home setting, and demonstrated that these ABRs are related to both current and prior language use.

After earning her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Naigles taught at Yale University for 10 years. She has held Visiting Professor positions at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, and at the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis.  She became a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science in 2009.  She was awarded the CLAS Excellence in Research Award for the Biological and Life Sciences in 2017.

Dr. Naigles’ research has also been funded by grants from NIH (FIRST, NIH-DCD, NICHD), NIMH, NSF, and NAAR.  She is the co-author of an SRCD Monograph (2009: Flexibility in Early Verb Use), co-editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Child Language, 2nd edition (2015), and editor of the recently published Innovative Investigations of Language in Autism Spectrum Disorder (2017).