Author(s): Ebbels SH, Dockrell JE, van der Lely HK
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Non-word repetition (NWR) difficulties are common, but not universal, among children with specific language impairment (SLI). However, older children and adolescents with SLI have rarely been studied. Studies disagree on the relationship between NWR difficulties and difficulties with other areas of language and literacy. There is also no consensus about the underlying reason for the difficulties (some) children with SLI have with NWR. Some scholars argue that difficulties with phonological short-term memory or storage cause NWR and other language difficulties, whereas others argue that difficulties with NWR may be due more to difficulties with phonological representations. AIMS: To investigate NWR abilities and their relationship to other language and literacy abilities in a group of older children with SLI and typically developing controls. To investigate the relative effects of increasing phonological complexity and the number of syllables on the ability of the participants to repeat non-words. METHODS & PROCEDURES: An NWR test (The Test of Phonological Structure; TOPhS), which systematically varies phonological complexity, was administered to 15 participants with SLI (aged 11-15 years), 30 language and 15 age controls. Standardized language and literacy tests and a specific test of verb agreement and tense marking (Verb Agreement and Tense Test; VATT) were also administered. OUTCOMES & RESULTS: The participants with SLI showed a bimodal distribution: half achieved age-appropriate NWR, while half scored significantly below language and age controls (d > 7). The two groups of participants with SLI (high versus low scorers) only differed in NWR (d > 5) and agreement (d > 3) and tense marking (d > 2.5), not on the standardized language and literacy measures administered. NWR was also highly correlated with verb agreement (r= 0.97) and tense marking (r= 0.89) among participants with SLI, but not among controls (r= 0.16 and 0.30 respectively). Phonological complexity was related to NWR accuracy, particularly among participants with SLI. The number of syllables had no independent effect on NWR performance for any group. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Some children with SLI (who have good NWR) have language difficulties unrelated to any of the factors underlying NWR. Others have a (probably additional) deficit which affects NWR and also leads to greater difficulties with verb agreement and tense marking. The results indicate that difficulties with this particular NWR test are more likely to be due to a deficit with phonology per se, rather than with phonological short-term memory or storage. © 2011 Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
This article was published in Int J Lang Commun Disord
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals