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WORDFINDING

Word-finding difficulties occur commonly in children attending language support services. Interventions focusing on semantics and on phonology can improve word-finding abilities. There is, however, limited research on the use of letters or letter to sound cues in therapy. A child may be able to correctly choose the initial letter and be helped by a phonological cue (e.g. it starts with “buh”), but be unable to generate the sound from the letter themselves (at the same time as trying to find the word). This article presents the results of a study using a computerised-aid, which provides the missing link by converting letters to sounds. The aid was originally devised by Dr Carolyn Bruce and has been used successfully with several adults with anomia (Best et al., 1997).

Five children were included in this study (Best, 2005); they varied considerably in their language development and non-verbal abilities. Two sets of items were included in therapy, a research set (with control items matched for baseline naming) and a further set of functional relevance for the individual child. All the children showed significant improvement in naming intervention items after therapy. This effect maintained. The views of children, parents and professionals are considered.

Best, W. (2005). Evaluation of a new intervention for word-finding difficulties in children. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 40 (3), 279-318.17

Best, W., Howard, D., Bruce, C & Gatehouse, C. (1997). A treatment for anomia; combining semantics, phonology and orthography. p. 102-129. In S. Chiat, J. Marshall & J. Law (Eds.) Language disorders in children and adults, psycholinguistic approaches to therapy. Whurr, London.

 

WORDFINDING: Fast mapping difficulties in children with SLI may not be due to fast mapping

Cristina McKean and Thomas Klee (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) have stated that:

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) acquire their first words later than expected and often have vocabulary difficulties throughout development, with fast mapping being implicated as one possible source of this problem. This study explored children’s fast mapping abilities by controlling variables, which have not previously been considered, including phonotactic probability, neighbourhood density, synonym interference, and memory load. The possible influences of visual memory and pragmatic inference were also considered.

The fast mapping abilities of 8 children with SLI with receptive language difficulties were compared to 8 typically-developing children matched for age and 8 children matched for vocabulary level.

Results indicated that the SLI group was able to fast map to the same extent as the controls when the stimuli were controlled. We hypothesize that children’s word learning difficulties may not be due to fast mapping per se but may be more a function of linguistic and psycholinguistic demands./p>

WORDFINDING: An investigation into the syntactic-semantic interface in typically developing children and children with Grammatical-SLI


Nichola Gallon and Heather van der Lely (University College London)

Children with Grammatical-Specific Language Impairment (G-SLI) have grammatical deficits affecting syntax, morphology and phonology (van der Lely, 2005). However, we do not know whether their deficit also extends to semantics. Indeed, we know little about semantic knowledge in children with SLI.

This research aims to elucidate the nature of semantic knowledge in children with SLI by examining how particular verbs can change their meaning based on their “aspect”. “Aspect” refers to the duration of the activity described by a verb. A verb’s aspect distinguishes whether the event being referred to is at the beginning, middle or end, whether it is a single event or a repeated event, and whether it is a completed or incompleted event. Aspect is influenced by lexical and grammatical properties. Lexical via the inherent property of the verb and whether it has a temporal boundary or end point, grammatical via the particular “viewpoint” that is adopted toward the event being described by the verb; i.e., completed or still ongoing.

We have investigated the effects of lexical and grammatical aspect on performance in children with G-SLI in comparison to groups of younger children matched on language ability. In addition, we have explored how the impact of grammatical structures such as passive sentences (e.g. The boy was pushed by the girl) and unaccusative sentences (e.g. The chair broke) effect comprehension of aspect. The results show that the children with G-SLI have difficulty with identifying temporal boundaries or endpoints and the imperfective aspect (i.e. the past progressive: The man was crossing the road). We will discuss the findings and their implications.

van der Lely, H.K.J. (2005). Domain-specific cognitive systems: Insight from Grammatical-specific language impairment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 9, 53-59.

FURTHER READING AND PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: http://www.psyc.bbk.ac.uk/research/DNL/personalpages/Best_etal_WFDintervention_sub.pdf

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