The long-term goal of this research program is to provide speech-language pathologists with information about how to best use physical context (e.g., the room or setting) to improve word-learning and generalization in children with primary language impairment (LI). The project will focus on how variations of training contexts affect two important components of word learning: learning the word-object link (i.e., being able to identify the correct object when its label is heard), and learning the word-form (i.e., being able to identiy the correct label when shown the target object).
The specific aims of the proposed research are to determine: 1-The extent to which variability of training contexts affects children's memory for newly learned word-object links and their generalization of those links to untrained exemplars and contexts;2- The extent to which variability of training contexts affects children's memory for newly learned word-forms and their generalization of those word-forms to untrained exemplars and contexts;3-The extent to which variability of training contexts during ecologically-valid interventions supports word learning and generalization among children with LI. Based on findings from past literature, the central hypothesis is that training in variable contexts will promote the most learning advantages as it will enable superior generalization to untrained exemplars and untrained contexts. The research strategy involves 3 experiments in which children with and without LI will be taught new words for unfamiliar objects and then asked to remember the word-object links and word forms in trained and untrained contexts after a delay of several days. This study will provide valuable information about the role of context in children's retention of new word-referent mappings.
This project will yield new insights about how physical context (e.g., the room or the setting) affects word learning and generalization in children with language impairment (LI). This is an important question because between 2.3% to 6.7% of children present with LI in the U.S. Early and effective interventions for these children can improve their language skills in the short-term and can have long-term educational and career consequences. Thus, understanding how contextual cues can be used to enhance learning and generalization could have both short- and long-term positive consequences for these children.