Specific Language Impairment Thesis

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¶ … Language Impairment

Phonological Memory Deficits in Language Disordered Children: Is There a Causal Connection?

Working memory plays an important role in the ability to learn new tasks and may be connected to the ability to read and learn language in children (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990). The central problem of this research study is to identify the role that memory plays in the retention of phonological language elements. It explores the role of impaired phonological memory plays in developmental language disorders.

The experimental design compared memory performance in children with language disorders with those of comparably aged child that did not have language disorders. The sample size was small, and therefore limited the ability of the results to be generalized to the population at large. However, the results did reveal that language disordered children performed worse on nonword repetition than the control group. The potential of hearing disorders was ruled out for both the control and experimental group.

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The dependent variable was phonological memory, as measured by a series of three different test tasks. The independent variables was the presence of language disorder in the experimental group. The study used statistical analysis to compare the performance of the experimental group (language-disordered children) with the control group (non-language disordered children). All children in both groups were between 7-8 years of age and were equal on all other aspects, aside from the presence of a language disorder. Children were assessed in matched pairs, as to their equivalent of non-verbal intelligence.

Standardized tests measured receptive vocabulary, reading ability, oral comprehension, grammar reception and non-verbal intelligence using scales that are accepted as British educational standards. Results on each of these tests were compared to age-specific norms. Authors chose these specific tests, as they reflected different aspects of language and memory.

TOPIC: Thesis on Specific Language Impairment Assignment

The authors concluded that memory skilled tapped by repetition play a central role in language development. It also demonstrated that differences are greatest for three and four syllable non-words than for single syllables (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990). Non-word repetition abilities were found to be different between the language-disordered and control groups. Phonological encoding tests indicated that the working memory of poor readers was characterized by a reduced capacity to store phonological elements (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990).

The tests and parameters chosen to represent working memory in children with language disorders were appropriate for obtaining the desired research outcomes. The tests focused on memory, rather than reading ability in an attempt to discover the root cause of language disabilities. Language disordered children were found to have poorer storage and recall abilities for lists of words than non-language disordered children (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990). The results of the study support the hypothesis of the study.

Since conduct of this study, other researchers have examined the link between reading disabilities and working memory. Results of these later studies corroborated with the results of this study. Deficits associated with complex memory and videospatial short-term memory correlated with deficits in math and language abilities (Gathercole, Alloway, & Willis, et al., 2005). The connection between working memory deficits and language deficits, particularly reading, are supported by empirical evidence. However, although it would appear that the direction of causality would appear to be in the direction of memory capacity, no evidence was found to support this view.

The real question that is posed by this research is what can be done to improve working memory in children with language deficits. Jaeggi, Buschkeuhl, Jonides, & Perrig (2008) training regimens can help to improve performance on memory-based tasks. This suggests that future research needs to focus on discovering new ways to improve working memory in language deficient children, rather than only focusing on reading and language related tasks. Little research was found that focused on this aspect of the problem. The research by Gathercole and Baddeley opens the door to the keys to reading and language improvement in children with deficits in these areas.


Gathercole, S. Alloway, T. Willis, C., & Adams, a. (2005). Working memory in children with reading disabilities. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 93 (3): 265-281.

Gathercole, S. & Baddeley, a. (1990). Phonological Memory Deficits in Language Disordered Children: Is There a Causal Connection? Journal of Memory and Language. 29: 336- 360.

Jaeggi, S., Buschkeuhl, M., Jonides, J. & Perrig, W. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 24 January 2009 at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/04/25/0801268105.full.pdf+html

Article Summary #2

Specific Language Impairment as a Period of Extended Optional Infinitive

English speaking children with specific language impairment have difficulty in acquiring grammatical morphemes that care tense and agreement (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave, 1995). Word endings such as -ed and -es are considered language markers that indicate finite or infinitive time indication. One of the most remarkable features of children with specific language impairment (SLI) is that they may have all of the necessary pre-requisites for language development, but language milestones are delayed.

This study compared a group of children containing both language delayed, and non-language delayed children of similar chronological age. The study focused on surface forms of verbs that are typically difficult for children with SLI. The study focused on discovering the ways that children with SLI do or do not make finiteness in a verb phrase. The study suggests that in children with SLI, their grammatical patterns remain young for a longer time than those of normally developing children (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave, 1995).

The study used a group of sixty children, eighteen of which were diagnosed with SLI. Children were from native English-speaking homes and were enrolled in a preschool or day care program. A hearing screening and test of mental maturity were used to rule out these confounding variables. All children were found to be of the same mental age and had no hearing problems. The study used the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised, as the measurement instrument. The study used quantitative analytical methods to compare SLI with non-SLI children in the group. The study focused on measurement of -ed and third person singular -s forms (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave, 1995).

The dependent variable in the study was the ability of the child to recognize and apply the correct lexical marker to the required verb. The dependent variable was measured by the child's ability or inability to identify and apply the correct verb ending. This study used age and mental age as the independent variables. The study group was divided into those with SLI (experimental group) and those without SLI (control group).

The study method involved recorded responses by the children where children were asked to respond to verbal cues. For instance, the child was shown a picture of a boy climbing a ladder and then told the boy was all done. The researcher then asked the child to tell what happened. The responses were then coded as to appropriate use of -ed. A similar set of tests was developed to elicit the -s response. The results were recorded as to the percentage of correct responses in a context that obligated correct tense usage.

The results of this study confirm that children with SLI will respond with verb stems rather than with proper verb endings. They lack knowledge of the language system used for making tense and agreement in English. Children with SLI consistently performed lower than their age-matched peers on this task (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave, 1995). The research methods used directly measured the ability of SLI and non-SLI children to respond with the correct verb ending and was appropriate for the hypothesis and research questions being tested.

The results of this study imply that both SLI and non-SLI children understand that finite and nonfinite forms of verbs are important, it is simply that the SLI children retain younger forms of grammar for a longer period of time (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave, 1995). Bishop, Bright, & James et al. (2000) suggested that SLI children could be subdivided further into groups with similar deficiencies. These studies found that differences exist between SLI and non-SLI children, but it did not address the causes or implications of these delays. These areas will form the focus of future research studies, as researchers and practitioners focus on developing improved methods for helping those with SLI.

Recent research has focused on finding the cause of SLI. O'Brien, Zhang, & Nishimura et al. (2003) have found a potential genetic marker in children with SLI. The role of genetic factors in the development of language impairment has been the focus of recent research efforts. Like many other disabilities, early intervention is important to prevent the effect of cumulative negative consequences (Sajaneimi, Suhonen, & Kontu, 2008). Early intervention has a positive effect on non-verbal play and performance, but did not have an effect on language measurements in the study. The development of effective early intervention strategies will require further research and should become a priority in the future.

SLI is mysterious in that it can be associated with other delays and difficulties, but it can also be the single delay… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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