Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often arrive at school already behind in many cognitive and academic domains, and these achievement gaps may widen throughout their educational experiences. In this talk, I will discuss my research on the causes and consequences of these differences from an educational neuroscience perspective. First, I will present findings on the neural mechanisms by which children’s early experiences relate to their language development, both within and across socioeconomic contexts. Second, I will show how individual differences in neuroplasticity and response to literacy intervention may inform individualized, maximally effective treatment programs. Third, I will present research suggesting that children’s neural adaptations to their early environments may contribute to variation in etiologies of learning disabilities as well as the neurocognitive systems underlying academic resilience. Finally, I will discuss my ongoing and future research plans to further characterize the neural mechanisms of the income achievement gap and how to translate findings into scalable interventions in classrooms and communities.
Rachel Romeo, PhD, CCC-SLP is a research fellow in the Translational Postdoctoral Training Program in Neurodevelopment at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work combines methods from the fields of developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, education, and speech-language pathology to investigate how variation in children’s early experiences and environments influence their neurocognitive development and academic success. She attained a PhD in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology from Harvard University, an MSc in Language Sciences from University College London, a BA in Psychology and Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, and her certificate of clinical competence in Speech Language Pathology at the MGH Institute of Health Professions.