Improving Word Learning by Children with Language Impairments: How Much Input?
What is it about?
Specific Language Impairment (SLI) involves difficulty learning language without any obvious cause. Children with SLI have difficulty learning new words, placing them at risk for later reading problems and academic difficulties. In this study, adults read books to children with SLI and discussed new vocabulary words in the storybook before, during, and after reading the book. These discussions involved describing or defining the word and showing other ways to use it. The goal of the study was to determine how many times a child with SLI needed to hear a word to learn it: 12, 24, 36, or 48 times. Children with SLI needed to hear a new word 36 times to learn it. Hearing the word more than 36 times did not produce greater learning. In addition, not all children with SLI learned new words from this book reading treatment. Children with SLI who had poorer ability to manipulate speech sounds (e.g., recognize words that rhyme) or poorer vocabulary or poorer ability to repeat nonsense words were less likely to benefit from this treatment. Although this treatment is promising, further development is needed.
Why is it important?
SLI is a subtle and often undiagnosed language impairment even though it is as common as ADHD -- affecting about 7% of children -- and has a profound impact on academic and social success. Although word learning difficulties in children with SLI are well known, we have few proven treatments for improving word learning. This study is a first step towards developing an effective treatment for children with SLI. This study establishes how many times children need to hear the word during book reading and discussion and gives us some ideas of the skills a child with SLI may need to benefit from the treatment. Future studies can now focus on adjusting other aspects of the treatment to increase the number of words children with SLI learn and to expand the number of children with SLI who experience success with the treatment.
The following have contributed to this page: Professor Holly Storkel and Veronica Fierro
In partnership with: