Thursday, December 16, 2010

Training in Phonological Awareness Generalizes to Phonological Working Memory: A Preliminary Investigation

Article: van Kleeck, A., Gillam, R.B., & Hoffman, L.M. (2006). Training in phonological awareness generalizes to phonological working memory: A preliminary investigation. The Journal of Speech and Language Pathology – Applied Behaviour Analysis, 1, 228-243.

Phonological awareness (PA) and phonological short-term memory (see note 1 below) are important for early reading success. Both PA and phonological WM are well established in typically developing children and contribute to word attack skills in early reading. Children with language impairment (LI) experience problems with both PA and phonological STM and are at risk of having difficulties when learning to read. The purpose of this study was to see if both PA and phonological STM skills could be improved in preschoolers with SLI.

Results of the first and second study showed that children with SLI performed more poorly than typically developing children on measures of rhyming, phoneme awareness, and working memory.

The third study included an intervention in which 16 children with SLI completed training in rhyming and phoneme awareness. Training sessions took place twice a week for two semesters, and lasted 15 minutes each. Post-intervention results showed improvements on a series of PA tasks as well as on two phonological STM measures for the children with SLI. There was no control group for this study.

These results provide some preliminary evidence that improvements in phonological awareness generalize to phonological STM.

Note 1: This paper refers to phonological working memory, however the tasks employed tap short-term memory rather than working memory. The tasks were nonword and word recall that require storage only (STM). Working memory tasks such as letter-number sequencing additionally require processing.

Blogger: Allison Partridge is the manager of the Language and Working Memory Lab. She graduated with an Honors Specialization in Psychology and completed her undergraduate thesis with Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Arrowsmith Program for Learning Disabilities

Fixing My Brain (2008). Filmoption International Inc.

Lancee, W.J. (2005). Report on an outcome evaluation of the Arrowsmith Program for treating Learning Disabled students. Unpublished manuscript.

This video tells the story of Barbara Arrowsmith, founder of the Arrowsmith School, and four learning disabled boys who complete one year in the program. The program involves an in-depth assessment and training on specific cognitive exercises aimed at training 19 cognitive capacities. The founder developed the program based on her interpretation of neuroscience research.

Available research is preliminary in nature. We were unable to find any peer-reviewed publications evaluating the program. Single-group studies (without controls) are available in unpublished format reporting positive results for participants. The program has been criticized by Dr. Linda Siegel, UBC. In a response to an article in the Vancouver Sun (29 Dec 2008), Siegel reported that she compared the effectiveness of the Arrowsmith method to a control group receiving support in a special classroom for children with learning disabilities and found no clear advantages of one method. We were unable to locate a report of this research.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald is the Director of the Language and Working Memory Lab. She is an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario studying the developmental relationship between language and working memory.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cross-Language Nonword Repetition by Bilingual and Monolingual Children

Article: Windsor, J., Kohnert, K., Lobitz, K., & Pham, G. (2010). Cross-Language
                   Nonword Repetition by Bilingual and Monolingual Children. American
                   Journal of Speech-Language Pathology,19, 293 - 310.

Nonword repetition (NWR) involves asking a child to repeat back a string of unfamiliar nonwords. For each nonword response, the number of correct phonemes is caluclated.

In this study, the researchers compare the Spanish and English NWR performance of 4 groups of children: (1) English monolingual typically developing (TD), (2) English monolingual with language impairment (LI), (3) Spanish-English bilingual typically developing TD, (4) Spanish-English bilingual with LI. The purpose of this study was to examine the usefulness of English and Spanish NWR to identify children with language impairment LI.

The monolingual English TD children on English NWR, and the Spanish-English TD children on Spanish NWR achieved higher nonword repetition scores. Performance of the Spanish-English TD and monolingual English LI groups overlapped on English NWR, and similarly, performance of the Spanish-English LI and monolingual English TD groups overlapped on the Spanish NWR. The lowest scores were found for the monolingual English LI on Spanish NWR and Spanish-English LI on English NWR.

It is clear from this study that children's performance in NWR tasks is significantly influenced by previous language experiences. The authors suggest that English NWR in isolation is not sufficient as a diagnostic tool for children who have language impairment in addition to learning a second language.

This study represents one of the first well controlled explorations of the use of nonword repetition in bilingual language impaired groups. However, the sample size, especially for the bilingual language impaired group, was small. Results must be interpreted with caution.

Blogger: Areej Balilah. Areej is a first year in the Master of Speech and Language Field in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences program at the University of Western Ontario. She is also a research assistant in Dr. Lisa Archibald’s Language and Working Memory Lab.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reading Intervention for Naming Speed Deficits

Article: Wolf, M., Miller, L., & Donnelly, K. (2000). Retrieval, automaticity, vocabulary,elaboration, orthography (RAVE-O): A comprehensive, fluency-based reading intervention program. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 375 – 386.

RAVE-O is an intervention approach provided in combination with a phonologically-based treatment. The program is designed for children with reading disabilities that are secondary to underlying deficits in naming speed. There are three overarching goals for the RAVE-O program. (1) Children will develop fluency in word identification, word attack and comprehension skills. (2) Lexical and sublexical processing will become more automatic through activities aimed at component perceptual and word-retrieval skills. In these activities, orthographic patterns and meanings are associated with a variety of core words. Finally, (3) children will develop awareness of newly acquired strategies and a sense of control over their reading abilities.

Wolf, Miller and Donnelly (2000) review the structure and utility of RAVE-O for speech-language pathologists in a school setting. Considerable detail about the program, activities, and materials are provided. However, the authors do not provide empirical evidence that supports the efficacy of the program (see Case Study Review and Discussion of the Double-Deficit Hypothesis).

Blogger: Tyler Levee. Tyler is a collaborator of Katherine Harder's in the Language and Working Memory Laboratory. He is studying how attention mediates working memory in children identified with poor language or working memory skills. He is a fixture in the LWM lab and hasn't been home for weeks. This is his final year in the speech language pathology stream of Communication Disorders at UWO.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Case Study Review and Discussion of the Double-Deficit Hypothesis

Article: Deeney, T., Wolf, M., & O’Rourke, A.G. (2001). "I like to take my own sweet 
                  time”: Case study of a child with naming-speed deficits and reading 
                  disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 35, 145-155.

According to the Double-Deficit Hypothesis described in this article, the two core deficits in children with developmental dyslexia are phonological processes and naming speed deficits. These two deficits account for three subtypes of dyslexic readers including those with a single phonological deficit, a single naming-speed deficit, and a combination of the two deficits. Children with a single phonological deficit are thought to have problems with word attack and decoding skills; whereas, children with a single naming speed deficit are thought to have difficulties with word identification and orthographic skills. Children who have a combination of the two deficits (phonological and naming speed) have the most widespread and resistant forms of reading troubles. This group has difficulties with a combination of word identification and orthographic skills as well as word attack and decoding skills.

The authors describe the case study reported in this paper as the first published study to follow a child with a single naming speed deficit resulting in a severe reading disability. The study followed a 9-year-old male over the course of 70 hours of intervention aimed at improving his reading abilities. This child was able to decode words by sounding them out, but had difficulties with letter orientation and sight vocabulary. The intervention consisted of participation in the RAVE-O program, a program aimed at addressing problems with processing speed and fluency, plus a combination of phonological analysis and blending work. Post intervention results, using both standardized and non-standardized measures, revealed improvements in the child’s performance IQ and reading. The next article discussed will describe the RAVE-O program in greater detail.

Blogger: Katherine Harder. Katherine is completing her final year in the Masters of Clinical Science program in Communication Disorders at The University of Western Ontario. She is also a research student in the Language and Working Memory Lab studying the effects of increasing cognitive demands on working memory in children with poor language or working memory skills.