Language Characteristics of Primary-Aged Students with Language Impairment (page 3)
The term language learning disability (LLD), like specific language impairment and late talker, refers to a language impairment that does not stem from a cognitive deficit, a sensory impairment, a social deficit, or a gross neurological deficit (Paul, 2001). It also refers to difficulties in both language and learning. In other words, primary-aged students who exhibit LLD experience difficulties in acquiring reading and writing.
As in children with SLI, the language impairment in children with LLD can be expressed in the following areas of expressive language:
- Speaking. Students with LLD have difficulties in retelling stories or providing explanations, selecting and retrieving words, participating in classroom discussions and making relevant contributions to conversations, providing sufficient background information about a topic of conversation or indicating how ideas are related to the topic of conversation, and talking about events that occurred in the past.
- Writing. Students with LLD have difficulties writing well-formed and grammatically correct sentences, mapping letter-sound correspondences, and spelling.
Difficulties in the following areas of receptive language are expressed:
- Listening. Students with LLD have difficulties in following multistep directions, understanding others’ explanations, and gaining information presented via the auditory route, that is, auditory processing difficulties.
- Reading. Students with LLD have difficulties comprehending what they read, identifying and distinguishing between the most salient information in a story and the irrelevant information, connecting and sequencing ideas in stories, and using visual and contextual cues for understanding story lines.
Phonological Characteristics of Students with LLD
Children with LLD are usually intelligible. However, as preschoolers, they may have exhibited phonological deficits. These subtle, but lasting phonological deficits may underlie their reading difficulties during the early school years. School-age children with LLD have difficulties with tasks that require phonological awareness. This can be problematic, since phonological awareness is essential to achieving print literacy and also the best predictor of reading ability.
Syntactic Characteristics of Students with LLD
The language output of students with LLD may be characterized as simple and immature. Some of the syntactic characteristics follow:
- Use of simple sentence structures. Students with LLD produce fewer complex sentence structures and fewer embedded clauses than their typically developing peers do (Marinellie, 2004).
- Limited elaboration on noun and verb phrases. Students with LLD use fewer modifiers (e.g., “Look at the big, red house.”), prepositional phrases (e.g., “The house in the corner is mine.”), embedded clauses (e.g., “The game I bought last year is now my brother’s.”), and adverbs (e.g., “She eats very quickly.”).
- Difficulty understanding passive sentences. Students with LLD interpret passive structures based on the order of appearance of the subject and object in the sentence instead of relying on the meaning of passive forms. For example, in the sentence “The cat was chased by the dog,” children with LLD will interpret it to mean “The cat chased the dog,” instead of the other way around.
- Difficulty with grammatical morphemes that are typically acquired later in development. Comparatives (e.g., big–bigger) and superlatives (e.g., biggest) and advanced prefixes and suffixes (e.g., unrelated, rewrite, disinterested, accomplishment, madness) are a challenge for these children.
Semantic Characteristics of Students with LLD
The difficulties exhibited by children with LLD are apparent at the lexical as well as the sentence level. The following are some of the semantic characteristics of students with LLD:
- small vocabulary size that is restricted to high-frequency or short words with low phonological complexity.
- impoverished or not well elaborated semantic representations of words in the lexicon. Students’ knowledge of word meanings is often restricted, revealing limited associations between words and poor categorization skills (Lahey & Edwards, 1999; McGregor, 1997; McGregor & Waxman, 1998; McGregor & Windsor, 1996).
- difficulty understanding the meaning of abstract words, such as wonder, thought, and anger and the overuse of concrete words.
- difficulty understanding and using words that mark temporal relations, such as next week, yesterday, and tomorrow; spatial relations, such as behind and above; quantity, such as more and a lot; order, such as first and second; and internal states, such as wondering and expecting.
- difficulty with word retrieval or word finding, the momentary inability to retrieve already known words from the lexicon. Word-finding difficulties are the most frequently observed lexical limitation of school-age children with language impairment (Faust et al., 1997; McGregor & Leonard, 1989). This difficulty is manifested in single-word naming tasks as well as in conversational discourse (German & Simon, 1991). The language of students with word-finding difficulty is characterized by repetitions, substitutions, pauses, and the use of nonspecific words such as thing (Faust et al., 1997).
- difficulty understanding complex verbal directions and explanations. Children with LLD display difficulty integrating meaning across sentences and paragraphs, revealing their limited ability to process semantic information.
- difficulty understanding and producing figurative language. These students interpret language literally. For example, a child with LLD may interpret a sentence like “Break a leg” as an insult, assuming that someone really wants him or her to get hurt instead of wishing him good luck (Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986).
Pragmatic Characteristics of Students with LLD
The limitations children with LLD exhibit are manifested in their use of language to communicate, their social development, their peer relationships, and their classroom learning. Classroom conversations are different than the conversations children have with their peers or family members. In the classroom, the teacher decides on the topic of discussion, and students must follow that topic and cannot shift to their topic of interest. Turn-taking rules are also different in classroom conversations, since teachers decide on the order in which children will talk. Children with LLD have difficulty learning the rules of classroom conversation. They differ quantitatively from their typically developing peers by verbalizing much less during classroom conversations and by exhibiting difficulty clarifying miscommunications, maintaining the topic of conversation, noticing a shift in the topic of conversation and adjusting accordingly, and contributing relevant information to conversations (Paul, 2001).
Furthermore, children with LLD have difficulty in narrative production. Compared to their typically developing peers, children with LLD reveal limitations in more than one aspect of discourse-narrative:
- They incorrectly use cohesive ties and often use fewer of them. Cohesive ties include pronouns and conjunctions (e.g., after, because, while) (Liles, 1985a, 1985b, 1987; Ripich & Griffith, 1988).
- They are less diverse in the vocabulary they use in narration (Paul & Smith, 1993).
- Their narratives are less informative, lack details, and are short with less overall organization (Scott & Windsor, 2000).
- They have poor understanding of temporal and causal relations and have difficulty answering inferential questions that assess the relationships between the story parts (Purcell & Liles, 1992; Merritt & Liles, 1987).
- They have difficulty with the complexity of sentences, the use of embedded clauses, and the elaboration of verb and noun phrases (Liles et al., 1995).
- They offer erroneous and irrelevant information when narrating a story. They often miss the key points or events in the story and focus on trivial details (Merritt & Liles, 1987).
While narration is difficult for children with LLD, expository texts or textbooks present an even greater challenge for them (Bernstein & Levey, 2002). Expository texts usually contain information that is new to the reader, thus making it difficult or impossible for the reader to use prior knowledge in order to comprehend the text. Compared to narratives, textbooks are very limited in the contextual support they provide, have no known structure (e.g., no settings, characters, main event, or consequences) to facilitate interpretation, and rely most heavily on children’s ability to process linguistic information. Depending on the state or school system, many children diagnosed as having an LLD may be labeled as having a Learning Disability (LD) and are generally offered the support of an SLP and a special educator.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- Social Cognitive Theory
- First Grade Sight Words List
- GED Math Practice Test 1