The central aim of this project is to integrate theories of language production and motor action into new accounts of specific language impairment (SLI). SLI is a disorder that affects approximately 7% of children at the time they enter kindergarten. Because of the longstanding adverse academic, social, and communicative consequences of SLI, it is imperative to understand the bases of the disorder for the development of appropriate intervention strategies. Many current approaches to SLI focus exclusively on language factors. Yet language is expressed through movement, and deficits in limb motor skill have been implicated in children with SLI. Current neurophysiological hypotheses about relations between language and action further support a rethinking of how these domains interact in normal and disordered development. The present studies assess whether the well documented co-occurrence between language and limb motor deficits results either from a disorder involving common mechanisms that influence both language and motor processing or rather are independent disorders that tend to appear in tandem (i.e., a co-morbidity). As a related aim, we follow the co- occurrence of language and limb motor deficits longitudinally from the preschool into the school years to track how early limb motor deficits predict outcome. We hypothesize that there are shared mechanisms that underlie the language and the motor deficits observed in SLI. That is, more general difficulties in sequencing, timing, and learning underlie both the grammatical and lexical retrieval deficits that are the hallmark of SLI and the co- occurring limb motor deficits. However, it is also possible that language and motor deficits are independent of each other and that a more general co-morbidity explains why these domains both tend to be affected in children with SLI. To investigate language, speech motor, and limb motor development in children with SLI, we incorporate measures and analyses from both psycholinguistics and speech motor control. The ultimate goal of this research is to translate scientific discoveries about language production and motor action into designing appropriate intervention programs for young children with language impairment. For example, if a common mechanism, such as timing or sequencing, is found to underlie deficits in language processing and limb movement, a more general intervention approach targeted toward this aspect of procedural memory would be indicated.

Public Health Relevance

Children with specific language impairment have longstanding deficits that affect their language development along with their social adjustment and academic achievement. The goal of this research is to translate recent scientific discoveries about language production and motor action into understanding the mechanisms that underlie specific language impairment and into designing appropriate intervention programs for these children.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
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Purdue University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
West Lafayette
United States
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Benham, Sara; Goffman, Lisa; Schweickert, Richard (2018) An Application of Network Science to Phonological Sequence Learning in Children With Developmental Language Disorder. J Speech Lang Hear Res 61:2275-2291
Saletta, Meredith; Goffman, Lisa; Ward, Caitlin et al. (2018) Influence of Language Load on Speech Motor Skill in Children With Specific Language Impairment. J Speech Lang Hear Res 61:675-689
Gladfelter, Allison; Goffman, Lisa (2018) Semantic richness and word learning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Dev Sci 21:
Vuolo, Janet; Goffman, Lisa; Zelaznik, Howard N (2017) Deficits in Coordinative Bimanual Timing Precision in Children With Specific Language Impairment. J Speech Lang Hear Res 60:393-405
Vuolo, Janet; Goffman, Lisa (2017) An exploratory study of the influence of load and practice on segmental and articulatory variability in children with speech sound disorders. Clin Linguist Phon 31:331-350
Richtsmeier, Peter T; Goffman, Lisa (2017) Perceptual statistical learning over one week in child speech production. J Commun Disord 68:70-80
Saletta, Meredith; Goffman, Lisa; Brentari, Diane (2016) Reading Skill and Exposure to Orthography Influence Speech Production. Appl Psycholinguist 37:411-434
Heisler, Lori; Goffman, Lisa (2016) The influence of phonotactic probability and neighborhood density on children's production of newly learned words. Lang Learn Dev 12:338-356
Saletta, Meredith; Goffman, Lisa; Hogan, Tiffany P (2016) Orthography and Modality Influence Speech Production in Adults and Children. J Speech Lang Hear Res 59:1421-1435
Richtsmeier, Peter T; Goffman, Lisa (2015) Learning trajectories for speech motor performance in children with specific language impairment. J Commun Disord 55:31-43

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