Implications of Specific Language Impairment: Social life and learning experience of an affected individual
Specific Language Impairment is a developmental disorder that may affect both comprehension and production of language in children; it is estimated to be prevalent in around 7% of population, which means that roughly one or two children in every classroom will be affected by this condition. Boys tend to suffer from SLI more often than girls. One of the risk factors is presence of SLI in families, which suggests it is genetically conditioned, even though there may be also environmental factors playing a role in SLI incidents (Bishop 2006: 217; Shanker 2002). Linguistic difficulties lead to problems with communicating effectively, and therefore adversely affect the lives of children and their families. Studying SLI may provide language therapists with more understanding of this condition and allow for more effective treatments. Moreover, as children can be diagnosed with Specific Language Impairment only when they have no other cognitive or physical deficit affecting their linguistic skills, SLI is therefore believed to be separate from other cognitive abilities. Better understanding of SLI can thus help with deciphering the very nature of language (see Shanker 2002 for a detailed discussion). This paper will aim to describe what exactly is meant by term Specific Language Impairment by showing how it manifests itself in children, how it is diagnosed and what the possible causes of SLI may be. Social implications of this condition will be highlighted and some solutions to those challenges will be offered. For the sake of brevity, linguistic theories attempting to explain SLI will not be presented in this paper, Guasti 2002 (chapter 11.1 and 11.2) and Leonard 1998 (chapters 11-13) offer a comprehensive review of these. The author has opted to focus solely on social aspect of SLI and its effects on children’s experience in the classroom.
The term Specific Language Impairment refers to a range of linguistic problems that are manifested in children. If untreated or very severe, they may persist into adulthood posing serious challenges to verbal communication, self-esteem and overall success in life (Guasti 2001: 376). Receptive and expressive linguistic skills (language comprehension and production) may both be impaired, very often at the same time. It is not uncommon to find children whose understanding is adequate but there may be problems with formulating utterances (Bishop 2001: 369). Such utterances may be short and lacking complexity, both phonological, as well as grammatical. Production of speech sounds may be deviant or immature; they are often simplified, especially in preschool children. Grammar of a child with language production problem will often be simplified and used incorrectly; there may be difficulties with inflection, case marking, auxiliary verbs, and other. Here is an example of an utterance produced by a 6 years old boy called Pete: “I not goin’ school today, Mommy. I sick. We goin’ a doctor? Why you take me to doctor Mommy? Him give me a shot? Maybe yesterday I jump around too much. Tommy falled off and he have two cut now. I won’ jump anymore.”-Pete, age 6
(Hamaguchi 1995: 115 as cited in Shanker 2002: 420)
There are several instances of omission of the copula “am” and “are” in this excerpt. There is also no inflection in questions posed by Pete. Verbs, in general, seem to be problematic; there is an overgeneralisation of the -ed rule for marking past tense; the -ed verb ending is added to irregular verb fall. In another case the past tense is not marked at all: Maybe yesterday I jump around too much. Verb to have has no indication of person it relates to: he have two cut now is used instead of he has. Also, the -s ending is not added to create a plural form of cut. All sentences are very short and simple. Pete’s speech is quite immature for his age, as is...
References: Bishop, D.V.M. 1994 Is Specific Language Impairment a Valid Diagnostic Category? Psycholinguistic Evidence. In Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 346, No. 1315, The Acquisition and Dissolution of Language (Oct. 29, 1994), pp. 105-111. Retrieved: 04/12/2012.
Bishop, D.V.M. 2001 Genetic and environmental risks for Specific Language Impairment in children. In Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 356, No. 1407 (Mar. 29, 2001), pp.369-380. Retrieved: 04/12/2012.
Bishop, D.V.M. 2006 What causes Specific Language Impairment in children? In
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Dockrell, L.E., Lindsay, G. 2001 Children with Specific Speech and Language Difficulties: The Teachers’ Perspective. In Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 369-394.
Guasti, M.T. 2002 Language acquisition: a linguistic perspective. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Leonard, L.B. 1998 Children with Specific Language Impairment. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Morgan, G., Herman, R., Woll, B. 2007 Language impairments in sign language: breakthroughs and puzzles. In International Journal of Language &Communication Disorders, Vol. 42, No. 1, (Jan.-Feb., 2007), pp. 97-105.
Shanker, S. 2002 The Generativist-Interactionist Debate over Specific Language Impairment: Psycholinguistics at a Crossroads. In The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 115, No. 3 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 415-450.
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