Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies.

Seymour, P. H. K., Aro, M., & Erskine, J. M. (2003). Foundation literacy acquisition in European orthographies. British Journal of Psychology (London, England : 1953), 94(Pt 2), 143–174.

This paper examined potential differences in rates of reading acquisition among children acquiring different languages. The purpose was to investigate whether the orthographic depth of the language can affect early reading skills. For example, whether children acquiring deep orthographic languages such as English develop reading skills more slowly than children acquiring shallow orthographic languages such as Spanish or German. In investigations examining orthographic depth, however, the study authors argued for the importance of considering the syllabic complexity of the spoken language as well. That is, whether the language has a predominance of consonant-vowel (CV) syllables (and few clusters) such as Italian and Spanish, or numerous closed syllables (CVC) with complex consonant clusters (e.g., German, Danish, English).

The study investigated the relationship between early reading acquisition and the orthographic complexity of the language being learned. Particularly, the authors examined the effect of syllabic complexity and orthographic depth among European languages. The study compared the performance of grade 1 or 2 children (minimum group size = 28) who spoke English or one of 12 European languages in letter knowledge, familiar word reading, and simple non-word reading tasks. There was no evidence that orthographic depth or syllabic complexity was associated with letter knowledge. Orthographic depth but not syllabic complexity was associated with familiar word reading with greater depth leading to lower accuracy and reading speed. For simple nonword reading, there was evidence that both orthographic depth and syllabic complexity influenced performance. Nonwords were read more accurately and rapidly for languages with simple syllable structures, and those with relatively shallow orthographic depth. Interestingly, the children’s performance in several reading tasks was independent of the age at which children started formal schooling.

Overall, the results of this study indicated that children acquiring shallow orthographic languages became accurate and fluent in the foundation level of reading by the end of the first school year. In comparison, children acquiring deep orthographic languages, English in particular, developed reading skills more slowly and less effectively. Children acquiring English needed two more years to acquire the same level of accuracy and fluency as the majority of European languages.



Areej Balilah, PhD Candidate with Dr. Lisa Archibald

Friday, May 13, 2016

Word-finding intervention for children with Specific Language Impairment: A multiple single-case study

Bragard, A., Schelstraete, M., Snyers, P., James, D. G. H. (2012). Word-finding intervention for children with Specific Language Impairment: A multiple single-case study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43, 222–234.

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) often have trouble retrieving words from their mental dictionaries. These word-finding difficulties (WFDs) may be due to inadequate semantic knowledge, in which case intervention should focus on improving word knowledge both by developing more complete definitions and by increasing knowledge of connections between meanings such as antonyms and synonyms. A second possible reason for WFDs is a weak representation of the sounds in the words, or phonology, in which case intervention should focus on increasing awareness of the sounds in words. In this study, the authors examined the relative effectiveness of these two approaches in remediating WFDs in four children with SLI.

Intervention was offered in two phases with three sessions each. In the first phase, children developed semantic knowledge by explaining associations between two given pictures. Phonological intervention in phase one focused on separating the sounds in the names of the pictures. In phase two of semantic intervention, children gave definitions for words and in the phonological intervention, children recalled the first sound in the name of a given object. Separate word lists were used for semantic and phonological interventions to compare the effectiveness of the interventions.

Testing on picture naming tasks showed one child improved after the phonological intervention only; the second child benefited from the semantic intervention only; the third child saw gains from both interventions; but the fourth did not show substantial improvements after either intervention. All of these increases in naming accuracy were maintained six months after the intervention. These results are promising, although no children showed improvements on untrained words at any point in the study.


The authors suggest that the differential responses to intervention were due to the type of WFD in the children, however little information was provided regarding the classification of the children’s word-finding deficits. Bragard et al. also suggest that the lack of generalization highlights the necessity of targeting carefully selected words to maximize benefits from the intervention.

Blogger: Laura Pauls; Laura is a speech language patholigist who is currently completing her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald

Monday, April 25, 2016

Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design.

Folkins, J. W., Brackenbury, T., Krause, M., & Haviland, A. (2016). Enhancing the Therapy Experience Using Principles of Video Game Design. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology / American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 25(1), 111–121.

            Gamers around the world, on average, spend eight hours per week playing video games. Although games are played at one’s own leisure, sometimes it is difficult to put the game down even when mentally fatigued. Such attraction to video games can be explained by six key principles: essential experience, discovery, risk-taking, generalization, reward system, and identity. Folkins et al. discuss these key principles and explain how they can be incorporated into future therapies among speech language pathologists.
            The essential experience principle is the idea of positive experience felt from playing the game itself. Minecraft is an example of a game where gamers can freely roam and create massive structures using their own imagination. This game has no specific goal or purpose, but the positive experience of exploring and creating structures compels gamers to continue playing. Clinicians can apply this principle in their therapy sessions by addressing their client’s negative experiences and finding ways to improve future experiences.
            The discovery principle promotes learning, discovering and unlocking skills or secrets to increase gamers’ level of engagement. In a clinical perspective, environmental manipulation can be a form of discovery learning. Children who have expressive impairments may request a toy that is locked in a jar, but will not necessarily receive it until the clinician elicits the production at the targeted level. If unsuccessful, the child can request the toy multiple times and discover what form/level of communication seems to work.
            The risk-taking principle and the reward system principle have the common theme of being challenging-yet-rewarding. Challenging games that create the feeling of “pleasantly frustrated”, often promote gamers to continue playing and re-trying unsuccessful levels. In addition, if the reward has an intrinsic value (e.g. the ability to travel to a different world), this further enhances their motivation and engagement. Applying these principles to a clinical setting could mean creating an environment where risk-taking is encouraged. Extrinsic rewards such as verbal reinforcement and small prizes are a good use of the reward principle. However, rewards that have intrinsic properties (e.g. successful communication, improved self-image) are highly encouraged as this is a primary motivator to clients.
            These key principles in game design are highly effective in motivating gamers to continue playing. Clinicians are encouraged to reflect on these principles when designing their therapy sessions to increase their clients’ motivation and engagement.


Blogger: Joel Kang is an undergraduate student in neuroscience and completed this honours thesis under Lisa Archibald’s supervision