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Identification of treatment parameters that maximize language treatment efficacy for children. TALK Initiative supplement.

Sponsored by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

$577.2K Funding
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AbstractPoor language skills are associated with numerous negative outcomes ranging from higher rates of tantrumsand difficulty developing friendships to school failure contact with the justice system and increased victimization.Although language deficits may be noticed as early as toddlerhood effective treatment may not begin this earlyand there is relatively little time to close the language gap before these children are faced with the increasedlanguage demands of formal education and the cumulative effects of academic struggle. For the 7-13% ofchildren with impaired language skills language treatments that are faster and more effective are urgentlyneeded. This competing renewal addresses this need with a series of studies that translate basic research instatistical learning to treatment contexts. The Statistical Learning Framework posits learners extract wordmeaning and grammatical structure from the language input they receive and the statistical structure of the inputaccounts for rapid implicit language learning. Six proposed studies translate statistical learning principles to atreatment context. Theoretically-motivated treatment factors are tested in two groups of children with poorlanguage skills. Late Talkers are children (ages 2-3 years) who are identified by the very limited number ofvocabulary words that they understand and use. Preschool children with Developmental Language Disorder(ages 4-5 years) show marked deficits in the use of grammatical morphemes. Parallel studies targetingvocabulary treatment (for Late Talkers) and morphosyntax treatment (for children with DLD) will test whetherleveraging prior learning can improve treatment methods by making learning faster and more effective. We willalso directly address the issue of non-responders (i.e. children who make limited improvement despite treatmentthat is effective for others) an unaddressed problem inherent to all treatment research. We leverage our previousfindings to predict which children are highly likely to be non-responders and propose alternative treatmentmethods that might assist this subset of children. These studies represent the necessary work for principledlanguage treatment that is supported by evidence and can provide insights into the nature of learning in a rangeof children with poor language skills.