Child Language Lab

Sandi Gillam talking to her students in lab.

About the Lab

Research in this lab focuses on the development of assessment tools and intervention approaches for improving cognitive, social and academic performance of individuals with language and learning problems. Students working in this lab use language sampling and coding techniques, administer and score standardized and criterion referenced assessments and investigate methods for measuring and improving discourse-level language. Students are encouraged and mentored to present at national conferences and to contribute to scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

SKILL Program: Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy

SKILL BookBasic language and literacy skills that underlie listening and reading comprehension are critical for students’ success in foundational literacy tasks. These skills include engagement in group reading activities, individual reading, comprehension, recalling details from text, retelling stories and using new vocabulary.

Narration, or story-telling is an important type of textual language that has clear ties to classroom instruction and early literacy, as the language arts curriculum in the primary grades is implemented primarily through the use of narrative texts. Children with language impairments are at a distinct disadvantage during language arts instruction because the beneficial effects of classroom instructional techniques are not fully realized due to difficulties with oral language.

To address the need for an effective intervention for young students with language impairments, Dr. Sandi Gillam has developed the SKILL program: Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy. This intervention teaches children basic story grammar elements such as character, setting, plan, action, etc., and then uses story modeling, story retelling and story generation to help children practice foundational literacy skills. High quality children’s literature is also incorporated into the lessons and used to teach vocabulary and comprehension.

The SKILL program was supported by a 1.5 million dollar development grant through the Institute of Educational Sciences, and has been implemented in a variety of educational settings across Cache Valley. The program can be used in a one-on-one instruction setting, in small groups or with an entire classroom. Research on the effectiveness of the SKILL program has demonstrated significant improvement in comprehension, recalling text details, story retelling, vocabulary and listening comprehension. These are all skills that lead to literacy success.

The SKILL manual and materials are being used by speech language pathologists, special education teachers, and classroom educators all across the United States and Canada. Great care was taken to develop materials that were not only instructionally sound and effective, but also compact and inexpensive. The SKILL program can be ordered at and includes progress monitoring tools and video examples to support implementation.


Lab Director

Sandra Laing Gillam

Sandra Laing Gillam


Phone: 435-797-9629