Children with specific language impairment (SLI) experience a significant deficit in language ability that is longstanding and harmful to the children's academic, social, and eventual economic well-being. Word learning is one of the principal weaknesses in these children. This project focuses on the word learning abilities of four- and five-year-old children with SLI in an effort to understand the nature of these difficulties. The goal of the project is to determine whether special benefits accrue when these children must frequently recall newly introduced words during the course of learning. Preliminary studies reported in this application suggest that such ?repeated retrieval? activities can be applied to children of this age and might produce dramatic word learning gains. The planned studies seek to determine whether repeated retrieval produces larger gains than current procedures even in the face of less exposure to the new words, and whether the degree of effort in retrieving new words is a significant factor in the children's success. A deeper understanding of the benefits of this process will be obtained through the use of both eye gaze and neural measurements of the children's word learning, along with more conventional measures such as picture naming and picture identification. Of special interest will be whether repeated retrieval activities narrow the differences between children with SLI and their typically developing peers relative to other word learning procedures. If the planned studies reveal larger word learning gains than current methods, repeated retrieval activities can serve as the basis for the development of new methods of treatment for children with word learning difficulties.

Public Health Relevance

Word learning represents one of the major difficulties experienced by children with specific language impairment. In this project, children with specific language impairment participate in activities that emphasize the frequent recall of newly introduced words with the goal of significantly improving these children?s word learning outcomes. Findings from this project might serve as the foundation for the development of new methods of treatment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Application #
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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Walsh, Bridget; Usler, Evan; Bostian, Anna et al. (2018) What Are Predictors for Persistence in Childhood Stuttering? Semin Speech Lang 39:299-312
Kueser, Justin B; Leonard, Laurence B; Deevy, Patricia (2018) Third person singular -s in typical development and specific language impairment: Input and neighbourhood density. Clin Linguist Phon 32:232-248
Haebig, Eileen; Leonard, Laurence; Usler, Evan et al. (2018) An Initial Investigation of the Neural Correlates of Word Processing in Preschoolers With Specific Language Impairment. J Speech Lang Hear Res 61:729-739