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Language impairment in the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

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Prof. dr. Frank Wijnen is professor of psycholinguistics at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS of Utrecht University and principal investigator of the program. He studied psychology and obtained his PhD in 1990 at the Radboud University Nijmegen. The work in his group revolves around the (neuro)cognitive underpinnings of primary language acquisition in very young children. The question he is most interested in is how putatively domain-general cognitive mechanisms may contribute to the emergence of the categories and rules of grammar and phonology. His research focuses on delayed and disordered language acquisition, notably in children with a familal risk of dyslexia and children with specific language impairment, also in relation to neurocognitive functions, such as statistical learning. With his research Wijnen aims to contribute to improving diagnosis and treatment of children with language difficulties.
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Prof. dr. Ellen Gerrits (PhD 2001, Utrecht) is professor Clinical Language, Speech and Hearing Sciences (hoogleraar NVLF leerstoel Logopediewetenschap) at Utrecht University and chair of the research group Speech and Language Therapy (lector Logopedie) of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. Her research program focuses on effectiveness of intervention for children and adults with language disorders. Main topics of her expertise are clinical epidemiology, intervention studies, professional and research ethics, evidence-based practice, speech and language therapy in children with language disorders, dyslexia, deaf children and cochlear implantation. Gerrits is head of the master Clinical Language, Speech and Hearing Sciences of the medical faculty of Utrecht University. She is chair of the Institutional Ethical Review Committee Clinical Health Sciences of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht which reviews all research project proposals that involve human subjects. Besides her research and teaching activities Gerrits is president of the Dutch Association for Voice, Speech and Language Pathology (NVSST) and board member of the International Association for Logopedics and Phoniatrics (IALP).
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Dr. Jacob Vorstman, MD was trained in child and adolescent psychiatry (clinic and research) and molecular genetics (research) at the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU). In 2008, he obtained his PhD for his work on the genetic and psychiatric characteristics of the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS). After obtaining his PhD, he worked as a psychiatrist at the UMCU and as principal investigator at the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus. In 2017, he moved to Canada to work as an associate professor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Scientist at the SickKids Research Institute. His work focuses on understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying neurodevelopment and neurodevelopmental disorders. He aims to contribute to the identification of genetic variation as well as to the elucidation of their impact on the phenotype. He highly values combining clinical work with scientific research.
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Dr. Sasja Duijff is a pediatric psychologist, affiliated as researcher with the the UMC Utrecht/Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital (WKZ). She studied Psychology at Leiden University and started her PhD in 2003. During her PhD, she investigated the cognitive development of children with 22q11DS in addition to her clinical work as a psychologist. She was closely involved in establishing the ‘22q11-poli’, an outpatient clinic for patients with 22q11DS that started in 2007 and consists of a multidisciplinary team of medical doctors and professionals. She is currently training to be an Infant mental health specialist. In the coming years she intends to continue her clinical work with children and adolescents with developmental disorders as well as her research in the area of early (psychological) interventions for this group of children and adolescents.
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Dr. Tessel Boerma is the post-doctoral researcher in the program. She studied at University College Utrecht, where she discovered her interest in linguistics and language acquisition. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she started the research master ‘Linguistics: the study of the language faculty’ in Utrecht. During this time, she focused on child language impairment and did an internship at Koninklijke Kentalis where she worked as a clinical linguist. In 2013, Tessel started her PhD project at the department of Special Education at Utrecht University. She investigated the linguistic and cognitive development of monolingual and bilingual children with language impairment. She obtained her PhD in 2017.

Within the current program, her project focusses on the language profile of adolescents with 22q11DS as compared to adolescents with DLD and how these language profiles relate to psychopathology. In addition to her work in the program, she is also involved in one of the new interdisciplinary projects of Dynamics of Youth titled ‘The first 1001 critical days of a child’s life’ together with Frank Wijnen and Ellen Gerrits.
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Drs. Iris Selten is a PhD candidate within the program. She obtained a bachelor and master degree in pedagogical sciences that trained her to work as junior psychologist. At the same time she also obtained  a master Development and Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence at Utrecht University. During her masters she did two nine-month internships at the Psychiatry department at the UMCU. During her internships she studied how differences in reward sensitivity can explain individual differences across children with attention problems. In 2016 she started working as a research assistant at the Niche (Neuroimaging in Childhood) Lab in the UMCU and contributed to a large European research program on the development of children, adolescents, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Within the current program her project will focus on the semantic and pragmatic development of children with 22q11DS as compared to children with DLD. Additionally, she will look at the relations between semantic and pragmatic development on the one hand and procedural learning and executive functions (sustained attention, selective attention/inhibition, and working memory) on the other hand in both children with 22q11DS and DLD.
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Drs. Emma Everaert is a PhD candidate within the program. After obtaining her bachelor in (cognitive neuro-)Psychology at Utrecht University, she started the research master Neuroscience and Cognition at Utrecht University. During her master, she did a nine-month research internship at the department of Special Education in the PhD project of Tessel. During this internship she studied the relationship between executive functions and bilingualism. She did a second research internship of six months at the Babylab of the UiL-OTS during which she used eye-tracking to study word segmentation from fluent speech in 10-month-old babies.

Within the current program her project will focus on the syntactic and morphological development of children with 22q11DS as compared to children with DLD. Additionally, she will look at the relations between syntactic and morphological development on the one hand and procedural learning and executive functions (sustained attention, selective attention/inhibition, and working memory) on the other hand in both children with 22q11DS and DLD.
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