Why Do Some Children Find Language So Hard to Learn?

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Slides from talk at Institute of Education, University of Reading, January 23rd 2014

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Why Do Some Children Find Language So Hard to Learn?

  1. 1. Why do some children find language so hard to learn? Dorothy Bishop University of Oxford http://www.psy.ox.ac.uk/oscci/ http://deevybee.blogspot.com/
  2. 2. Specific language impairment (SLI)  Language does not follow usual developmental course  Typical development in other areas  Not due to hearing loss, physical abnormality, acquired brain damage
  3. 3. Aspects of language structure  Phonology – Speech sounds  Areas of particular difficulty for many language-impaired children Sentence construction – Appropriate use of grammatical inflections – Comprehension of complex sentences “The pencil on the shoe is blue”
  4. 4. Two types of explanation  SLI as an auditory perceptual problem ba di bu da ki do  ba bi bu da di do SLI as a short-term memory problem ba di bu da ki do ba di bu da ki do
  5. 5. SLI as an auditory deficit Eisenson, J. (1972). Aphasia in children: “The aphasic child’s basic perceptual impairment [is] one for auditory perception for speech at the rate at which speech is normally presented.” Theory subsequently developed by Tallal and colleagues Tallal, P. (2003). Language learning disabilities: integrating research approaches. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 206-211.
  6. 6. Auditory temporal processing model Auditory processing deficit Problems distinguishing speech sounds Poor language learning
  7. 7. Implications for intervention   FastForWord® - computerised training – Developed by Tallal and colleagues; – Very intensive; 90 min x 5 day/wk x 6 wk – Uses speech that is modified to make brief/low intensity portions more salient Fast transitional elements amplified and stretched 7
  8. 8. FastForWord® : studies of effectiveness Meta-analysis combining results from six high-quality trials found FFW group did no better than control group Strong, G. K., et al. (2010). A systematic meta-analytic review of evidence for the effectiveness of the ‘Fast ForWord’ language intervention program. Journal of Child 8 Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(3), 224-235.
  9. 9. Might auditory manipulation still be effective?  Auditory training is only part of the FFW package  Some children who were given the intervention had no problems with auditory discrimination
  10. 10. Bishop, Rosen & Adams, 2006 Questions  Can computerised training improve comprehension in children with receptive language problems?  If so, does speech modification help?  Does child’s auditory processing status make a difference? Stuart Rosen UCL Caroline Adams Oxford Bishop, D. V. M., Adams, C. V., & Rosen, S. (2006). Resistance of grammatical impairment to computerized comprehension training in children with specific and nonspecific language impairments. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 41, 19-40.
  11. 11. Adaptive threshold estimation; unpaced presentation
  12. 12. Design of study Group S: trained with regular speech Group M: trained with modified speech Group U: untrained  Intervention – Less intensive than FFW (15 min sessions) – Only two training ‘games’: • comprehension/spelling
  13. 13. Comprehension training
  14. 14. Amount of training Normal speech group S N = 12 sessions: mean (SD) range trials: mean (SD) range Modified speech group M N = 12 14.50 (7.57) 16.00 (7.90) 6-26 6-29 1162 (847) 1162 (646) 243-2529 289-2191
  15. 15. Time 2 : retest    Average of 80 days after time 1 Same battery of standardized language tests Parallel forms used
  16. 16. TROG-2 scores 85 scaled score 80 75 70 pretest 65 posttest 60 55 50 Group S N = 12 Group M N = 12 Group U N=9 drop-out N=3 • All groups improved; • No effect of training or speech modification • Improvement unrelated to amount of training • Improvement unrelated to initial auditory scores
  17. 17. Comprehension training  Examination of learning in the grammar game  Children tended to get stuck at a level of 8090% correct on constructions such as above/below; active/passive  i.e. performance is not at chance, but children seem unable to get to automatic correct understanding
  18. 18. What have we learned?  Many children with receptive language disorders don’t have the auditory processing problems postulated by Tallal’s theory  No relationship between auditory impairment and learning  On a task that doesn’t tax auditory perception, learning occurs but it is very slow
  19. 19. Hsu & Bishop New study looking at learning processes in SLI 20 Julie Hsu
  20. 20. Ullman & Pierpont, 2005 The Procedural Deficit hypothesis
  21. 21. Ullman & Pierpont, 2005 The Procedural Deficit hypothesis • Evidence for two brain systems: declarative and procedural • Declarative learning implicated in learning arbitrary associations – inc. vocabulary Procedural learning implicated in learning of syntax and phonology: • • • Learning is unconscious/automatic Rule learning
  22. 22. SLI: Predictions from procedural deficit hypothesis • Relatively unimpaired in verbal and nonverbal paired-associate learning • Sequential learning deficits for verbal and nonverbal materials 1 4 2 2 4 1 3 1 4 2 2 4 1 3 1 4 2 2 4 1 3 …. Ullman, M. T., & Pierpont, E. I. (2005). Specific language impairment is not specific to language: The procedural deficit hypothesis. Cortex, 41, 399-433.
  23. 23. Current study: participants 48 children with SLI (7-11 yrs) (2 subgroups) 20 age-matched typically-developing children 28 language-matched* typically-developing children (4-6 yrs) Matched on language comprehension test 24
  24. 24. Paired-associate learning 25
  25. 25. Nonverbal paired-associate learning • Same as vocabulary task except learn to associate meaningless sounds/patterns Work in progress, please do not quote! 26
  26. 26. Work in progress, please do not quote! • Noisy data – hard task, but clear learning • No main effect of group; SLI and age-matched equivalent 27
  27. 27. Paired associate learning: vocabulary • 8 new words; 3 times each within a training session • Presentation of all 8 items before training started • Same game format – put the named item in the robot’s tummy 28
  28. 28. Work in progress, please do not quote! • SLI learning RATE is same as control groups • Initial level lower than age-matched, equivalent to language-matched 29
  29. 29. Sentence comprehension training (spatial prepositions) Training Half the children trained with above/below and the rest with before/after 4 training sessions (5 mins each) 30
  30. 30. Reversible prepositions Learning for children scoring < 90% session 1 Work in progress, please do not quote! N = 15 N = 16 Main effect of group is not significant Significant interaction of session x group 31
  31. 31. Additional feature of study  Inclusion of items where entire sentence repeated: to see if child rote-learns meaning – e.g. item A is “the apple is above the chair” 32
  32. 32. Reversible prepositions Learning for children scoring < 90% session 1 Work in progress, please do not quote! • SLI significantly better with repeated items on trials 2-3 • No effect of repeated items in language-matched group 33
  33. 33. No transfer of training to TROG-2 Children scoring < 90% session 1 Pre-test Post-test TROG-2 blocks passed Pre-test Post-test Work in progress, please do not quote! Language-controls SLI 34
  34. 34. Predictors of learning: preposition task Work in progress, please do not quote! Zero-order r Variable Nonword repetition Word span Age (yr) -.20 .16 .14 .20 .08 .32* .33* .16 -.06 .35* .47** .34** .48** .37** Nonword rep. Word span Score day 1 Score day 1 Score day 4  R2 = .35 Bottom line: • Nonword repetition & word span predict day 1 performance 35 • Day 1 performance and word span predict day 4 performance
  35. 35. Conclusion • Key deficit in SLI: learning to extract sequential information from serial input, whether verbal or nonverbal* • Limited short-term memory, rather than perceptual problems, seems a key problem for many children • Learning does occur, though seems reliance on rotelearning, rather than pattern extraction * Nonverbal sequences not covered in this talk: see Hsu, H. J., & Bishop, D. V. M. (2014). Sequence-specific procedural learning deficits in children with specific language impairment. Developmental Science, in press. doi: 10.1111/desc.12125 36
  36. 36. Raising Awareness of Language Learning Impairments http://www.youtube.com/RALLIcampaign https://www.facebook.com/ralli.campaign.page

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