Saturday, December 24, 2011

Interventions Targeting Attention in Young Children With Autism

Patten, E. & Watson, L. R. (2011). Interventions targeting attention in young children with autism. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 60-69.

The importance of attention in one’s ability to learn cannot be understated. While research on autism is quite prevalent, autism studies that focus on attention are rare. Patten and Watson (2011) provide a guide for clinicians which showcases autistic children’s attention characteristics as well as interventions which successfully improve attention.

Patten and Watson (2011) identify three main categories of attention commonly affected in children with autism: orienting, sustaining, and shifting. Orienting describes the physical adjustment to a stimulus (i.e., a head turn or eye shift), sustaining refers to the maintenance of attention to a stimulus, and shifting is the act of both disengaging from one stimulus and then shifting and reorienting to a new one. These three factors all influence social interaction through joint attention, which refers to the shared attention between two individuals and an object or stimulus. Children with autism have trouble orienting to stimuli, and sometimes overfixate on them when they do.

The authors review intervention methods which either “habilitate or improve attention skills in the long term” (therapeutic interventions) or “focus on compensatory strategies or accommodations that effectively improve attention relatively quickly and contingently” (accommodations). The therapeutic interventions presented are based on 12 studies, and can be generally categorized into four methods: Child-directed play, in which the child chooses an activity and adult intervention is implemented within that context; reinforcement, in which children get a reward for performance; imitation, in which adults imitate children with the hopes that eventually the roles will reverse and children will imitate the adults’ behaviour; and prompting, in which physical prompts begin in an over exaggerated manner, and the exaggeration is gradually reduced until the children display the correct behaviour by themselves. The accommodations which the authors suggest are strategies such as referring to objects of attention by specific labels or offering rewards for good behaviour, which seem to be effective in the short term, but offer no long term advances.

The authors conclude that research results largely indicate that attention interventions benefit children with autism. This conclusion is based on findings of a systematic review in the National Standards Project (NSP) report (National Autism Center, 2009). Furthermore, the authors suggest that interventions are beneficial regardless of who administers the intervention (they suggest it can be a therapist, parent, or peer).

Blogger: John Berger

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

School-Age Children Talk About Chess: Does Knowledge Drive Syntactic Complexity?

Nippold, N.A. (2009). School-age children talk about chess: Does knowledge drive syntactic complexity? Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 856-871.

Speech-language pathologists who work with school-age children are continually searching for an effective method for obtaining a spontaneous language sample that is quick yet yields accurate information regarding a child’s linguistic abilities. Previous studies have demonstrated that when speaking in the expository genre, vs conversation or narrative, children exhibit greater syntactic complexity. Nippold (2009) hypothesized that complex thought supported by a knowledge base would result in the use of complex syntax. She examined the language productivity and syntactic complexity of 32 children using chess as the topic of discussion.

18 expert and 14 novice chess players, aged 7;3 – 15;4 provided language samples during an interview format across three different speaking tasks: general conversation, chess conversation, and chess experience. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and entered into SALT. Syntactic complexity measurements of the transcriptions included mean length of t unit, clausal density, and use of nominal, relative, and adverbial subordinate clauses. Group comparisons were made using a series of one-way analyses of variance with each child’s chronological age, raw score, chess knowledge, and years of play serving as the dependent variables. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated using the same data.

Results indicated that both novice and expert chess players produced substantially greater amounts of language and spoke with higher levels of syntactic complexity during the expository task (chess explanation) compared to the conversation tasks (chess and general). The relationship between mean length of T-unit and each of the other syntactic measures revealed that mean length of T-unit alone was found to be an effective tool when scoring conversation and expository tasks for complexity.

This study provided support for using language-sampling tasks involving sufficient opportunities for children to talk about their knowledge areas. Speech-language pathologists may want to consider incorporating questioning techniques that stimulate children to reflect on complicated issues relative to their areas of expertise such as video gaming, arts, or computers when obtaining a language sample to investigate syntactic complexity.

Blogger: Rosine Salazer

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) Taps a Mechanism That Places Constraints on the Development of Early Reading Fluency

Lervag, A., & Hulme, C. (2009). Rapid automatized naming (RAN) taps a mechanism that places constraints on the development of early reading fluency. Psychological Science, 20, 1040-1048.

This study explored the relationship between the ability to rapidly name items (RAN) and to learn to read. Three possible relationships were postulated: RAN may tap causal mechanisms for differences in learning to read; differences in learning to read might be the cause of differences in RAN; there might be a bidirectional causal relationship.

A group of 233 unselected, grade 1 children from Norway completed RAN tasks at 5 time points over a 37-month period. The first and second testing time points were compared for the children before and after reading instruction, and text reading fluency was also measured at time points 2-5.

Structural equation modeling examined how well Time 2 RAN and reading were predicted from Time 1 RAN. Results revealed that reading fluency, phoneme awareness, and RAN at Time 2 were strongly predicted from Time 1 RAN measures. Additionally, rapid naming of letters and numbers was strongly predicted by RAN for nonalphanumeric items. RAN was found to be an important predictor of later text-reading fluency. In latent growth curve analysis, nonaphanumeric RAN predicted the non-linear growth of text-reading fluency over all time points.

The results showed that nonalphanumeric RAN is a good predictor of later variations in reading skill, and that early variations in reading ability are not good predictors of later variations in RAN. Therefore, after reading instruction has started, RAN continues to exert an influence on the development of reading fluency over the next 2 years. However, there is no evidence of a reciprocal influence of reading fluency on the growth of RAN skill. Later in development, once literacy skills had started to develop, alphanumeric RAN predicted the further growth of text-reading fluency. However, text-reading fluency did not predict growth in RAN. Therefore, RAN and reading do not show reciprocal influences on one another.

From these findings, the researchers suggested that RAN may underlie a child’s word-recognition abilities but acknowledged previous findings that RAN related training has had limited success.

Jenna Coady is completing an independent study examining RAN, phonemic awareness, and reading in young children. She is finishing her final year in the Masters of Clinical Science program in Speech Language Pathology.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Risk for Poor Performance on a Language Screening Measure for Bilingual Preschoolers and Kindergartens

Pena, E.D., Gillam, R.B., Bedore, L.M., & Bohman, T. M. (2011). Risk for Poor Performance on a Language Screening Measure for Bilingual Preschoolers and Kindergartens. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 302-314.

This study examines the relationship between language experience and Latino children’s performance on Bilingual measures (English and Spanish). The primary purpose of the study is to examine whether preschooler and kindergarteners children who are learning two languages at the same time present with risk for language impairment more than the monolingual children. Also, this study explored the relationship between maternal education and length of exposure in both languages (English and Spanish).

A total of 1,029 children completed subtests assessing semantics and morphsyntax in both languages (English and Spanish) of the Bilingual English Spanish Oral Screener (BESOS; currently in development). From parental report the study identified each child to be in one of five groups of languages: (1) functionally monolingual English (FME), (2) bilingual English dominant (BED), (3) balanced bilingual (BL), (4) bilingual Spanish dominant (BSD), and (5) functionally monolingual Spanish (FMS). The bilingual not-at-risk group scored lower than the monolingual and language dominant groups in both languages. In addition, in English subtest tasks, the balance bilingual with no risk earned the same scores as the English monolingual at risk group. Moreover, the two bilingual dominant groups had the same score as their bilingual groups in their stronger language.

The study reported that bilingual children might be at risk for poor performance on language measures. However, bilingualism is not related to increased risk for language impairment because performance of the at-risk groups did not differ significantly for across all five language groups. In sum, the study found that monolingual and bilingual child had the same overall language knowledge provided measures in both languages were included for the bilingual groups. The results underlined the problem of assessing bilingual children in only one language.

Blogger: Areej Balilah.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Precursors to numeracy in kindergartners with specific language impairment

Kleemans, T., Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2011). Precursors to numeracy in kindergartners with specific language impairment. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 2901-8.

Kleemans et al. examined whether children with SLI significantly differed on measures of numeracy in comparison to typically developing children and which precursors were more closely related to numerical processing skills in children with SLI. A group of 111 typically developing children and 61 with SLI completed measures of working memory, naming speed, phonological awareness and grammatical ability, as well as measures of logical operations, numeral representations and numeral estimations. The researchers found that phonological awareness and grammatical ability predicted logical operations and numerical representations. Furthermore, there was an interaction between group and naming speed, with naming speed being significantly correlated with logical operations and numerical representations in the SLI group, but the typically developing group.

These findings are consistent with the Triple Code Model proposed by Dehaene et al. (2003). This model predicts that depending on the tasks, there are three distinct systems of representation that may be recruited: the quantity system (nonverbal), a verbal system (where numerals are represented lexically, phonologically and syntactically) and visual system. The verbal system is associated with activating the left angular gyrus (located in the parietal lobe), which has been found to be associated with arithmetic fact retrieval, but also other language mediated processes such as verbal STM and reading. The findings of a relationship between language abilities and the verbally based numerical tasks in the Kleemans et al. study are consistent with the verbal numeracy system proposed in the Triple Code Model.

Although the paper is consistent with previous findings, the hierarchical regression analysis reported was confusing. Furthermore, multiple t-tests were conducted increasing the chance of finding a type I error. The correlation analyses would have been stronger if partial correlations controlling for age were reported. As well, the numeracy tasks that measured numerical operations and numerical representations were very similar to one another and relied heavily on language processes to perform. Given the fact that the numeracy tasks were not independent of language skills, the results are not surprising.

These findings may have clinical and diagnostic implications. Although further research is necessary, the rapid naming may be related to number deficits in children with SLI. However, given the statistical methods used, the results should be interpreted with caution.

Blogger: Stephanie Bugden is our guest blogger and a PhD candidate working in the lab of Dr. Daniel Ansari, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychology at the University of Western Ontario. Stephanie’s research examines the developmental trajectories of cognitive impairments in children with math learning disabilities. Stephanie currently holds the record for the shortest time between finishing our lab meeting and writing her post for this blog!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Domain-specific treatment effects in children with language and/or working memory impairments: A pilot study

Wener, S.E., & Archibald, L.M.D. (2011). Domain-specific treatment effects in children with language and/or working memory impairments: A pilot study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 27, 313-330.

Archibald & Joanisse (2009) identified three groups of children: (1) Those with a Specific Language Impairment (SLI), an impairment in language development but not working memory; (2) those with a Specific Working Memory Impairment, an impairment in working memory but not language; and (3) those with both language and working memory impairments (L&WMI). Given these separable groups, it would be reasonable to hypothesize that these children may respond differently to treatment aimed either at improving language or working memory. It was the purpose of this pilot study to evaluate this hypothesis.

We employed a single subject design with 9 participants, 3 with SLI, 2 with SWMI, and 4 with L&WMI. Performance was measured using 3 probes (picture recall, sentence formulation, geometric puzzle completion) throughout the baseline phase (2 wks), treatment phase 1 (4 wks), no treatment (4 wks), and treatment phase 2 (4 wks). Standardized tests of language and working memory were completed before and after each treatment phase, and at 4 months post treatment. The treatment in the 2 phases involved 4 tasks (word recall, n-back, story retelling, memory updating) but differed in the strategies taught. For the language-based intervention, verbal strategies were targeted whereas for the working memory-based intervention, imagery strategies were taught as a memory strategy. Five of the participants did the language-based intervention first followed by the working memory intervention.

Results revealed that performance improved on the picture recall probe after the language-based intervention, and on the geometric puzzle completion probe after the working memory-based intervention. No reliable effects were found for the sentence formulation probe. Improvements of 10 points on standard scores were considered clinically significant. Based on this criterion, 6 of 7 of the children with a language impairment (SLI or L&WMI) showed an improvement on a language measure and 3 of 5 (SWMI or L&WMI) on a working memory measure at 4 months post onset.

This study provides some preliminary evidence of a domain-specific treatment effect in that performance on a language task improved after language-based intervention and on a visuospatial task after working memory-based intervention focusing on imagery strategies. The findings also suggest a profile-specific effect in that children with a language impairment tended to improve on a language measure and children with a working memory impairment on a working memory test. Given the small sample size, these results must be interpreted with caution.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The efficacy of Visualising and Verbalising: are we asking too much?

Dixon, G., Joffe, B., & Bench, R. J. (2001). The efficacy of Visualising and Verbalising: are we asking too much? Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 17(2), 127-141.

The purpose of the current study was to investigate treatment approaches for the remediation of language comprehension difficulties in children. In the study, Dixon et al. compare the approaches of Visualising and Verbalising and Traditional comprehension training in language impaired (LI) children. Traditional comprehension training teaches skills such as finding the main idea, following sequences, and inference understanding and creation. The Visualising and Verbalising training consists of several stages in which students are first taught descriptive vocabulary, followed by sentence visualization and verbalization exercises. The main difference between the approaches is the encouragement of visualization in the latter approach, and the absence of this type of encouragement in the former approach.

Eight children with language impairment between the ages of 9;0 and 15;1 completed 10 weeks of therapy sessions that were distributed into three therapy conditions: Visualising and Verbalising only, Traditional and Visualising and Verbalising (5 weeks of each type), and Traditional only.

Results showed that the children’s comprehension ability (as measured using the Analytical Reading Inventory) improved over the course of the study, regardless of the treatment approach. Critically, through a covariance analysis between the two types of approaches, the Visualising and Verbalising group did not improve significantly more than the Traditional group. These results suggest that the use of mental imagery does not appear to aid in narrative comprehension.

Dixon et al. suggest that the simultaneous maintenance of a mental image (visualizing) with the cross-modal auditory processing of incoming information (verbalizing) may have exceeded LI children’s working memory capacity, thereby not conferring the expected benefit. However, it should be noted that none of the children in the Visualising and Verbalising condition actually completed the full program as it was originally described. As well, this study did not take into account the working memory abilities of the children. Nevertheless, this study raises some concern that the clinical assumption that visualizing will aid verbalization may not always be a valid assumption.

Blogger: Jackson Wilson

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maximizing Constructivist Learning from Multimedia Communications by Minimizing Cognitive Load

Mayer, E.R., Moreno, R., Boire, M., & Vagge, S. (1999). Maximizing constructivist learning from multimedia communications by minimizing cognitive load. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(4), 638-643.

The purpose of the current study was to examine theory-based design principles for promoting learning in multimedia environments. According to Mayer’s theory of multimedia learning, three components are at play during multimedia learning: (a) dual coding, which is the processing of verbal and visual materials by different systems, (b) limited capacity, in which each system is limited in the amount of information that can be simultaneously stored or processed and (c) generative learning, in which meaningful learning occurs when coherent connections are made by selecting relevant information. Guided by this model, the authors hypothesize that working memory (WM) load is the major impediment to learning.

Mayer et al presented information to 3 groups of adult participants in one of 3 ways: (1) concurrent, in which the animation and the narration were presented at the same time, (2) successive large bites, in which the entire animation was presented followed by the entire narration, or vice versa, and (3) successive small bites, in which short, equal length segments of animation were presented followed by the corresponding ‘bite’ of narration, or vice versa. Results revealed significantly better performance on all outcome measures for the concurrent group compared to the successive large bites group. However, the successive small bites group showed no statistical difference from the concurrent group and did significantly better than the successive large bites group on several measures.

Mayer et. al’s research may provide useful information for the development of learning strategies when the learning occurs within multimedia environments. The results show that while the concurrent presentation of coupled verbal and visual information is an effective strategy for learning, the segments don’t necessarily need to be presented concurrently, as long as the corresponding successive segments are small enough that the learner can maintain both in WM at the same time.

Blogger: Jackson Wilson is a research assistant in the Language and Working Memory Lab, and is about to begin a Masters of Clinical Science in Speech Language Pathology. But research also beckons…..

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Identification of Adults With Developmental Language Impairments

Fidler, L.J., Plante, E., & Vance, R. (2011). Identification of adults with developmental language impairments. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 2-13.

Literature concerning developmental language impairment in adults is rare compared to that of children. Fidler et al.’s study focused on identifying a test battery for identifying this population.

Six groups were formed from 192 participants: (1) adults with a learning disability, (2) adults who have a history of speech and/or language services, (3) parents of children who are diagnosed with specific language impairment, and three control groups matched on age and sex. A battery of measures were administered to all groups targeting various domains: phonology (nonword repetition and written spelling tasks), morphology (grammatical judgment and phrase completion tasks), syntax (sentence generation task and Modified Token Test), semantics (word definition and picture-pointing tasks), and narrative (speaking rate task).

Results indicated that three of the battery’s measures were significant in identifying language impairment in the three non-control groups of adults (the Modified Token Test, the 15-word spelling task, and the CELF-4-WD word definition task). Additionally, it was found that when used together as a battery, these three measures maximally idenitified clinical group members as having impaired language (sensitivity) and control group members as having typical language (specificity).

Fidler et. al’s research is important as it establishes tasks that identify this phenomenon in adults, which should be of particular interest to both researchers and clinicians.

Blogger: John Berger. John recently finished his undergraduate Psychology and English Literature degrees, and works as a research assistant in the LWM lab with Dr. Archibald.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Clinical Rationale for Assessing Rapid Automatized Naming in Children with Language Disorders

Wiig, E.H., Zureich, P., & Chan, H-N.H. (2000). A clinical rationale for assessing rapid automatized naming children with language disorders.

Word finding difficulties characterize many children with language difficulties. One challenge in assessing these difficulties is determining whether the difficulty is related to poor word knowledge or difficulty retrieving known word knowledge. This study examines the utility of rapid automatized naming (RAN) to distinguish these difficulties.

RAN tasks involve the rapid retrieval of known words. The items to be named are typically familiar words so the focus of the task is on retrieval. A task may involve the naming of items from a single domain (e.g., letters, colours), or more than one domain (e.g., alternating letters and numbers; naming colour and shape). The integration of more than one feature requires accessing and inhibiting responses, and reflects interference effects. Greater interference effects may indicate greater difficulty in successfully retrieving words.

RAN difficulties for letters, numbers, and alternating letters and numbers have been demonstrated for children with dyslexia (e.g., Wolf, 1991, Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 123-141). Wolf has proposed a double deficit hypothesis (see our blogpost for October 31, 2010) suggesting that phonological processing and naming speed deficits constitute two core and separable deficits in dyslexia.

The present study employed the RAN tasks of the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-3 (Semel et al., 1995) involving rapid naming of (1) colours, (2) shapes, and (3) colours and shapes to compare groups of children with language impairment and typical development. The groups were reliably distinguished on the 3rd task requiring the rapid naming of both shape and colour only.

The authors suggest that the RAN tasks may identify whether a naming-speed deficit and interference with fluency in language production is problematic. Slower naming on all 3 tasks may suggest pervasive slowing in language production while slower naming on the 3rd task only may reflect slower naming speed and interference impairments that effect fluency in language production. Normative data for the RAN tasks are provided in the paper.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Relation Between Teacher Input and Lexical Growth of Preschoolers

Bowers, E.P., & Vasilyeva, M. (2011). The relation between teacher input and lexical growth of preschoolers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32, 221-241.

This study examined the relationship between teacher speech and vocabulary (lexical) growth in 29 English language learners (ELL) of varying native languages, and 75 monolingual English preschoolers over the course of one academic year. Children’s lexical or word knowledge was assessed at the beginning and end of the same academic year using a well-accepted standardized vocabulary test, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Third Edition (PPVT-IIIB). In the middle of the school year, samples of teacher input were recorded from 10 classrooms over a 1.5 hour period that included circle time (group instruction), and snack time. Teacher speech was measured by input quantity (total number of words), lexical diversity (number of different words), and structural complexity (average number of words per utterance).

Results indicated that while the lexical growth of monolingual English speakers was significantly and positively related to the lexical diversity of teacher input with a relatively small effect size. In contrast, the lexical growth of ELLs was significantly and positively related to the quantity of teacher input but significantly and negatively related to the complexity of teacher input.

A possible explanation for this finding is that monolingual English preschoolers have already mastered the basics of English, and are therefore not thrown off by the lexical diversity. Instead, these children’s lexical growth is dependent on exposure to new words. In comparison, the ELL children have not yet mastered the basics of English and can be thrown off by the cognitive demand of complex utterances. These children benefit more from repetition of English words in simple sentences.

The main limitations of this study are the small sample size, particularly with respect to the ELL group, the single sample of teacher speech, and the lack of information provided about the teaching context (experience, class size, etc.). The strengths of this study include the novelty of comparing teacher speech to lexical growth of preschoolers (as it is typically parental speech that has been studied), and the promising suggestive results and effect size despite the small sample size.

Although the data is suggestive, it offers a promising path for future research in the area of language development and teacher input particularly highlighting the need to repetition in simple sentences to promote growth of word knowledge in children learning English whose first language is not English.

Blogger: Laura Vanderlaan

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grammatical Morphology in Children Learning English as a Second Language: Implication of Similarities With Specific Language Impairment

Paradis, J. (2005). Grammatical Morphology in Children Learning English as a Second Language: Implication of Similarities With Specific Language Impairment. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 3603-0172.

This study examines similarities between the expressive language characteristics of typically developing children in the early stages of learning English as a second language (TD ESL) and monolingual children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). This study focuses on grammatical ability in both groups, since grammatical morphology is an area of noted difficulty for both monolingual children with SLI and TD ESL. Also, this study examines if the overlap between these two groups might cause erroneous assessment of TD ESL (Missed identity & Mistaken identity).

The grammatical ability of 24 school age children within their first year and a half of learning English as a second language was compared with monolingual children with SLI. Children with engaged in two tasks: (1) Spontaneous Speech, and (2) Elicited Speech using the Test of Early Grammatical Impairment (TEGI; M. Rice & K. Waxler, 2001). Error types were examined in two grammatical composites: (1) non-tense group (progressive aspect –ing; preposition in & on; plural –s; articles the & a; copula and auxiliary BE), and (2) Tense group (third person singular –s; past tense –ed; irregular past tense; copula and auxiliary BE). Results revealed the same error patterns for both groups: a) tense morphology was less accurate than nontense morphology. b) errors of ommission with grammatical morphemes were more common than errors of commission. c) these patterns were the same for spontaneous and elicited data.

The study findings suggest that using ‘translated’ English standardized test with bilingual children may lead to erroneous assessment. The authors agree with the recommendations of the TEGI test that the TEGI is not recommended for nonnative English speakers.

The studies suggest that an important focus for future research is to compare ESL children with and without SLI, because any finding will have a significant effect on the process of assessment with this population of children.

Blogger: Areej Balilah.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Communication, Listening, Cognitive and Speech Perception Skills in Children With Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or Specific Language Impairment

Article: Ferguson, M. & Hall, R. (2011). Communication, Listening, Cognitive and Speech Perception Skills in Children With Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or Specific Language Impairment (SLI), 54, 211-227.

Children with an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have difficulty interpreting the sounds around them, while those with a Specific Language Impairment (SLI) have difficulty learning language. In many ways, however, the difficulties of children with APD and SLI overlap making differentiating between them complex. It is possible that specialists from different areas may give varying diagnoses to a child (APD, SLI, Dyslexia, etc.), based upon their specialty. There is a great need for clear diagnostic measures to distinguish between children with APD, SLI and other language disorders. This would allow for adequate identification and provisions to be made as early as possible.

Ferguson and Hall's study (2011) focuses on finding measures to differentiate between children with APD and SLI. The children were divided into 3 groups: an APD group (n=19), an SLI group (n=22) and an unselected control group comprised of children in Mainstream School (MS) group (n=47). The children were tested with a widespread set of diagnostic tools including measures of speech intelligibility (clarity), intelligence, phonological (speech sound) processing, memory, and others. Parents completed questionnaires related to their child's communication, listening behaviour, and attention. The APD group was found to have more difficulty listening at varying levels of distractor noise (by parental report) than either the SLI or MS groups. Interestingly, the researchers found no significant difference between the APD and SLI groups on the other measures. Overall, the results suggest that children with APD and SLI may be difficult to distinguish on standard measures of achievement.

This was an excellent foundational study. From this it is evident that in the future, more specific tests should be used to find differences between the APD and SLI groups. In addition, more careful matching of the control group to the affected groups may prove useful.

Blogger: Michaela Holmes is a student in the Graduate Neuroscience program at Western completing a Masters degree under the supervision of Drs. David Purcell and Lisa Archibald. Her work is examining auditory feedback in children with SLI and those with typical development. She hails from Vancouver, B.C., and is the oldest of 5 red-headed sisters!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Responsiveness-to-Intervention: Definitions, Evidence, and Implications for the Learning Disabilities Construct

Fuchs, D., Mock, D., Morgan, P.L., & Young, C.L. (2003). Responsiveness-to-intervention: Definitions, evidence, and implications for the learning disabilities construct. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 157-171.

In the United States the method used to identify children with learning disabilities has been under discussion for a number of years. One of the most frequently discussed alternatives to the IQ achievement discrepancy model is responsiveness-to-intervention (RTI). RTI is a multi-tiered approach that incorporates early identification and increasing levels of support for students with learning and behavioural needs. Initially all children are provided high-quality instruction and screening within the general education classroom. For those students identified as struggling learners research-based instructional interventions at increasing levels of intensity are provided by the classroom teacher, special educators, and specialists. Progress is continuously monitored and interventions differentiated to meet individual student needs. Students who do not respond to the interventions provided are deemed to be in need of special education.

The authors of the present article review the effectiveness and feasibility of two different versions of RTI – the “problem-solving” model and the “standard-protocol” approach. A problem-solving model uses a variety of differentiated interventions that have been developed through a school team consensus process. The standard protocol approach employs the use of the same empirically validated treatment for all children presenting with similar difficulties. Fuchs and his colleagues evaluated the problem solving model by examining four programs considered to be exemplary by a number of educators. They found inconsistencies among the four programs in terms of team support, levels of treatment, and movement into special education. Additionally, they were unable to find sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of the RTI approach in any of these programs. Any studies that were carried out by the problem solving models involved small or undefined samples, with limited information regarding the type, accuracy, or effectiveness of the interventions. Fuchs, et al. then evaluated the standard protocol approach by reviewing the research of Vellutino, et al. (1996). Although they felt this study provided a strong model of evidence-based intervention they also questioned whether the use of a standard treatment protocol is appropriate for all struggling students since it deprives them of individually tailored or differentiated instruction. Overall they felt the standard protocol approach appeared more likely in principle to facilitate greater quality control while the problem solving model was more sensitive to individual student differences. A number of recommendations were made with regard to future RTI implementation.

This paper provided a good description of two versions of RTI while documenting the inconsistencies and lack of evidence based practice used in the implementation of these models. It also emphasized the need for further research.

Blogger: Rosine Salazer. Rosine is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Vice Principal currently on leave from the Thames Valley District School Board. She is interested in studying the impact of students’ narrative language abilities on student performance and provincial assessments.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Statistical Learning in Children With Specific Language Impairment

Evans, J.L., Saffran, J.R., & Robe-Torres, K. (2009). Statistical learning in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 52, 321-335.

This study examines statistical learning in children with specific language impairment (SLI), a difficulty acquiring language despite otherwise typical development generally. Statistical learning is a time of implicit learning – learning without awareness – that involves tracking patterns of regularities over input (such as strings of syllables).

Children with either SLI or typical development engaged in a drawing task while strings of syllables were played either for 21 or 42 minutes. The syllable strings contained predictable sequences of syllables (“words”) but were otherwise word boundaries were no otherwise marked by prosodic pattern or pauses. After 21 minutes, the typically developing children showed significant learning while the SLI group performed at chance levels. After 42 minutes, the performance of the two groups did not differ reflecting learning on the parts of both groups. Analysis of response errors revealed that the children with SLI often chose a foil phonologically related to the target. It was suggested that the children with SLI may not have retained enough phonological detail to differentiate the target and foil items at test.

This paper was a pleasure to read. The study was well designed, and the paper well written. The results emphasize the protracted learning and need for repeated exposures by children with SLI.

Blogger: Lisa Archibald

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Etiology of Diverse Receptive Language Skills at 12 Years

Dale, P.S., Harlaar, N., Hayiou-Thomas, M., & Plomin, R. (2010). The Etiology of Diverse Receptive Language Skills at 12 Years. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 982-992.

Substantial research has been conducted on earlier but not later stages of language development. Early child language research is not transferable, nor can it be applied to adolescents because of the large increase of qualitative and quantitative language skills that are developed, and continue to develop. Along with linguistic changes (e.g., lexicon, verbal reasoning, syntax, pragmatics, figurative language and literacy), there are consequential changes in cognition, academia and social experiences.

To study the etiology of language skills at 12 years of age, Dale et al. (2010) conducted a twin study (n = 4,892) comparing performance of twins with identical genetic complements (monozygotic) and those with differing genetic complements (dizygotic). Greater relationships between measures for the monozygotic vs. dizygotic twins reflect genetic contributions. The researchers measured vocabulary, listening grammar, figurative language, and making inferences using online measures.

A factor analysis revealed that all four language measures loaded on the same factor, a single language factor. Not surprisingly, genetics and shared environment both influenced these factors. As well, there were no significant differences between boys and girls that underlie the etiology of language development. These findings are also consistent with the generalist genes hypothesis.

This study employed a well-accepted research paradigm (twin study) with a large sample. The findings that genetics and environment contribute to language are consistent with current clinical and research views. The results of one language factor incorporating vocabulary, receptive grammar, figurative language, and making inferences suggests that improvements in one of these areas should lead to improvements in the other areas.

Blogger: Sarah Cloutier. Sarah is completing her Masters degree in Child and Youth Health, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Western Ontario. She is studying behavioural measures of parent abilities, and familial and environmental factors that influence a broad spectrum of children and their language abilities. Sarah had also been a research assistant in the Language and Working Memory Lab with Dr. Lisa Archibald.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment: The role of phonological working memory

Article: Montgomery, J. (1995). Sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment: The role of phonological working memory. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38. 187-199.

This study sought to determine the answers to three main research questions and, in doing so aimed to link phonological short-term memory deficiencies to particular language deficiencies in children with specific language impairment (SLI):

1) Do SLI and language matched children differ with respect to their phonological memory capacity as measured by nonword repetition?

2) Do children with SLI show greater difficulty processing longer, linguistically redundant sentences than shorter, nonredundant sentences relative to language-matched children?

3) Is there a relationship between phonological working memory (now referred to as phonological short-term memory) capacity and sentence comprehension?

The results showed that children with SLI repeated longer nonwords less accurately than the language-matched, typically developing control group. As well, children with SLI comprehended fewer longer and redundant sentences (e.g., The big black dog jumped very high.) but did not differ in performance on shorter and nonredundant sentence comprehension (e.g., The dog jumped) than the control group. Finally, Montgomery found a positive correlation between nonword repetition scores (as a measure of phonological short-term memory) and the sentence comprehension measure. That is, subjects with lower scores on nonword repetition also had lower scores on the sentence comprehension task.

This study was one of the first to directly link memory deficiencies in children with SLI to specific linguistic deficits. Strengths of the article include the use of younger language-matched control children. SLI deficits in comparison to this group point to unexpected linguistic deficiencies in the SLI group. The use of redundant and nonredundant sentences (published in the appendix of this article) attempted to isolate the increased memory capacity load of longer sentences, however some of the longer sentences may have added syntactic processing demands. An example of a short sentence was “The girl crying is pushing the boy smiling”, while a long sentence was “The girl who is crying is pushing the boy who is smiling.” Although dated, this article holds well with current literature of SLI and working memory impairments.

Blogger: Laura Vanderlaan is a former Queen’s varsity soccer player and a certified Ontario teacher. She is a research student completing a Masters degree in the LWM lab. Her work is investigating classroom strategies for teaching children with working memory impairments.