Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Verbal Working Memory in Bilingual Children

Gutiérrez-Clellen, V., Calderón, J., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2004). Verbal working memory in bilingual children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47, 863-876.

Language assessment measures rely heavily on the child’s previous experience with language. Bilingual children may be at a disadvantage on such tests simply because of the low levels of exposure to the language being tested. As a result, differentiating children with language disorders from children with language differences among bilingual children is challenging. Processing measures that require manipulation of familiar or simple language stimuli have the advantage of being less dependent on a child’s previous language experience, and as such, may hold promise for differentiating those with language impairment from those with age appropriate processing who are still learning the language.

In this study, the authors examined individual differences within bilingual groups on two verbal working memory measures. A total of 44 school-age bilingual children (Spanish-English) participated and were grouped based on proficiency in one or both languages according to parental interviews, teacher questionnaires, and child’s spoken narrative samples. Results revealed no significant differences between bilingual children with high proficiency in both of their languages and children with proficiency in only one language on either verbal working memory tasks. This result suggested that bilingual proficiency differences have no effect on processing performance.

The results of this study indicate that processing measures might help to differentiate language impairment from language difference in bilingual speakers. In addition, the findings provide no evidence for a bilingual advantage, at least on the types of measures included in the present study.


Areej Balilah, PhD Candidate with Dr. Lisa Archibald

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The narrative language performance of three types of at-risk first-grade readers

Allen, M.A., Ukrainetz, T.A., & Carswell, A.L. (2012). The narrative language performance of three types of at-risk first-grade readers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43. 205-221.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a three-tiered approach to identifying and supporting children with reading difficulties. In order to read fluently, a reader must be skilled in both decoding and comprehension.  Decoding involves recognizing letters and their corresponding sounds, while comprehension requires the reader to put words together to understand a whole sentence or text. In this study, Allen, Ukrainetz, and Carswell suggest that current RTI models are mainly focused on the decoding processes required in reading, but pay less attention to the linguistic aspects of reading.

In this study, first grade at-risk readers completed measures of expressive and receptive language at 2 points in the school year and prior to intervention. Early resolvers who demonstrated an improvement of reading skills continued with the Tier 1 classroom program. The remaining children received four-weeks of Tier 2 intervention focusing on either fluency or accuracy.  Those who received the intervention were grouped as good or poor responders based on the intervention outcome. The retrospective analysis revealed that narrative skills as measured in story retelling (story length; number & variety of words) were better for the good responders than either the poor responders or early resolvers. The early resolvers also used less productive language and recounted fewer elements of the narratives compared to the good responders.

            The authors suggested that good responders may have had early reading differences related to experience, but had stronger language skills to support their reading improvement throughout the intervention. The early responders, who demonstrated reading skills expected for their grade, still demonstrated language difficulties on the narrative retell task. Because responses to the code-based RTI model differed based on narrative language skills, the authors argued that RTI models should also consider linguistic aspects of reading difficulty. Including a narrative language component in RTI models would widen the scope of RTI models to identify and support children with language deficits.


Blogger: Alex Cross is completing a combined MClSc and PhD in speech language pathology. Her work focusing on reading will be part of both the Language and Working Memory and the Language, Reading, and Cognitive Neuroscience labs.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Language ability groups in bilingual children: A latent profile analysis

Kapantzoglou, M., Restrepo, M.A., Gray, S., & Thompson, M.S. (2015). Language ability groups in bilingual children: A latent profile analysis

Children with a relatively specific and unexpected atypical language development are considered to have a Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Nevertheless, SLI groups are notoriously heterogeneous such that some children have relative deficits in some or another aspect of language. One effort to understand this heterogeneity is to examine language profiles in groups in the population.

This studied was based on a large group of predominantly Spanish speaking 5-7 year old children who were receiving school instruction in English. Measures of lexical diversity, grammar, length of utterance, rapid naming, nonword repetition, and nonverbal intelligence were completed in Spanish. A Latent Profile Analysis, a statistical method for identifying latent groups with similar profiles based on the variables (scores) considered. Results of this analysis revealed three groups: an average ability group, a group with relative deficits in the measure of grammar, and a group with relative deficits in nonword repetition. The nonword repetition deficit was considered to reflect a deficit in working memory.

The authors suggested that children might have difficulty learning language for two reasons: difficulties with grammar or processing phonological aspects of language. Further, they called for the assessment of both grammar and working memory for phonological information in children with developmental concerns about language.


Blogger: Lisa Archibald