Input–output symmetry: why it matters for AAC users, and a word list to help

Child output = speech

Adult input = speech

Child output = AAC

Adult input = speech……. Whoops!? See how that might be a problem for learning?

How about:

Child output = AAC

Adult input = aided input (pointing to graphic symbols during speech)

“Among children with complex communication needs, vocabulary selection for aided AAC has almost exclusively been driven by consideration of expressive language needs. However, receptive language is critical to expres.png

No matter a child’s mode(s) of expressive communication, it’s our job to help ensure that they are getting receptive examples that match their expressive output, as often as possible. How? Encourage parents to use aided input, right? Simple!

Not simple. Consider this—are the words the family uses most frequently on the child’s device? Often times children’s AAC is programmed only for the child’s lexicon. But shouldn’t it also be set up for the words s/he is learning?

To help tackle the input–output asymmetry issue, this paper provides a list of words you may want to consider for programming young clients’ communication systems. The list is a compilation and comparison of data from three large sets, identifying words mothers use most frequently when speaking to their toddlers, as well as words most commonly spoken by toddlers and preschoolers.

They found that just over 250 words comprise most of mothers’ child-directed speech, with considerable overlap between mothers’ most frequent words and the words used by children (and this includes children unrelated to the mothers!… but arguably from similar cultural backgrounds). Another interesting finding: some mothers talk more than others (like, four times more), but the difference in lexical diversity among mothers (that is, number of different words) isn’t so high.

Though limitations include the fact that this research was done on typically-developing children, and it’s a new analysis of a ton of old data (from the late 80s forward), it “…provides a beginning place for guiding vocabulary selection.” So, basically, this list could be very useful as long as you take generational and cultural considerations in mind. So maybe add words like “tablet”? And please just ignore the fact that the data is on “mothers”, not parents in general—the world wasn’t as woke 20 years ago. 

This review is published in both the Early Intervention & Preschool & School-Age sections. 

Quick, N., Erickson, K., Mccright, J. (2019). The most frequently used words: Comparing child-directed speech and young children's speech to inform vocabulary selection for aided input. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. doi: 10.1080/07434618.201

Note: You can also find a link to this research at the author’s institutional repository, here.

Differences in how teachers and SLPs see DLD

Teachers and SLPs* are supposed to collaborate to support children with developmental language disorder (DLD). Right?! Yet, it seems to infrequently happen successfully. This paper helps us identify why by capturing similarities and differences in how our fields view and support DLD.

Some highlights:

  1. SLPs conceptualize DLD as a language learning impairment; teachers more commonly label it as a learning disability.

  2. SLPs assess DLD in order to identify what areas of language are a weakness, with plans to directly target those language areas, and quantify outcomes based on language performance. However, teachers assess in order to guide classroom instruction, with plans to change the classroom environment, and measure educational achievement.

  3. SLPs tend to prescribe intervention that is added on to classroom instruction, whereas teachers are looking at how they can tailor instruction within the classroom curriculum.

  4. SLPs tend to value language as a critical skill in and of itself, whereas teachers don’t tend to conceptualize language in isolation. Instead, their focus is overall educational achievement (and of course they recognize that language skills are embedded within that, but they don’t usually think of language as a target).

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Overall, this paper is a really good exercise in perspective-taking for SLPs. It highlights fundamental differences in how speech–language professionals and teachers are taught, what their research literature focuses on, and how their practice mindsets can be very different. And understanding all this could be really useful in framing discussions on inter-professional collaboration.

 

*SLTs in the UK; this is an Irish paper

Gallagher, A.L., Murphy, C-.A.,  Conway, P., Perry, A. (2019). Consequential differences in perspectives and practices concerning children with developmental language disorders: an integrative review. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12469.

And more...

Esmaeeli et al. found that family history is the biggest predictor of reading disorders in children at the end of second grade, but emergent literacy and oral language skills also played a role. As SLPs, we should always be taking family history into account when screening or testing for reading disorders.

Two studies this month looked at standardized language tests for Spanish–English bilingual children. Fitton et al. studied the sentence repetition task from the Bilingual English–Spanish Assessment (BESA) and found that it was a valid measure of morphosyntax in both Spanish and English. Wood & Schatschneider studied the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) and found that it was biased against Spanish–English dual language learners (see also this review).

Méndez & Simon-Cereijido looked at Spanish–English bilingual preschoolers with developmental language disorder* (DLD) and found that children with better Spanish vocabulary skills also had better English grammar skills. They suggest targeting vocabulary in students’ home language to support English learning.

In a survey of nearly 3000 children, Reinhartsen et al. found that children with autism are significantly more likely to have higher expressive language skills than receptive. Children with this profile tended to have more severe delays and more significantly impaired language overall compared to children without this profile.

Rudolph et al. studied the diagnostic accuracy of finite verb morphology composite (FVMC) scores. Unlike previous studies, they found that FVMC wasn’t good at identifying 6-year-olds with developmental language disorder (DLD). The difference might be due to a larger, more representative sample of children. (NOTE: “The FVMC is derived from a spontaneous language sample, in either a free-play or elicited narrative scenario, and reflects the percent occurrence in obligatory contexts of eight T/A morphemes: regular past tense –ed, 3S, and present tense uncontracted and contracted copula and auxiliary BE forms (am, is, are).” ~Rudolph et al., 2019)

Verschuur et al. studied two types of parent training in Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), finding that both group and individual training improved parents’ ability to create communication opportunities and increased children’s initiations. Furthermore, group training had additional benefits for parents’ stress levels and feelings of self-efficacy. The authors suggest that combining group and individual sessions might be a good way to build parents’ skills while conserving resources.

Venker et al. surveyed SLPs about their use of telegraphic speech. The vast majority of SLPs reported using telegraphic input for commenting on play, prompting for verbal imitations, and giving directions. However, only 18% of SLPs reported that they felt telegraphic speech is useful, which doesn’t make much sense! More research is needed to help align SLP practices and perspectives for use of telegraphic input. (Editors’ note = Perhaps it’s just a habit that’s hard to break? Even culturally influenced?)

 

*Note: The children in this study were those with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), which refers to children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) and normal nonverbal intelligence. We use DLD throughout our website for consistency purposes (read more here).

 

Esmaeeli, Z., Kyle, F.E., & Lundetræ, K. (2019). Contribution of family risk, emergent literacy and environmental protective factors in children’s reading difficulties at the end of second-grade. Reading and Writing. doi:10.1007/s11145-019-09948-5.

Fitton, L., Hoge, R., Petscher, Y., & Wood, C. (2019). Psychometric evaluation of the Bilingual English-Spanish Assessment sentence repetition task for clinical decision making. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-1

Méndez, L. I., & Simon-Cereijido, G. (2019). A view of the lexical-grammatical link in young latinos with specific language impairment using language-specific and conceptual measures. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-18-0315

Reinhartsen, D.B., Tapia, A.L., Watson, L., Crais, E., Bradley, C., Fairchild, J., Herring, A.H., & Daniels, J. (2019). Expressive dominant versus receptive dominant language patterns in young children: Findings from the study to explore early development. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-03999-x

Rudolph, J. M., Dollaghan, C. A., & Crotteau, S. (2019). Finite verb morphology composite: Values from a community sample. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-18-0437 

Venker, C.E., Yasick, M., & McDaniel, J. (2019). Using telegraphic input with children with language delays: A survey of speech-language pathologists’ practices and perspectives. American Journal of Speech–Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2018_AJSLP-18-0140

Verschuur, R., Huskens, B. & Didden, R. (2019). Effectiveness of Parent Education in Pivotal Response Treatment on Pivotal and Collateral Responses. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04061-6

Wood, C., & Schatschneider, C. (2019). Item bias: Predictors of accuracy on Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition items for Spanish-English-speaking children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-18-0145  

Teaching grammar to kids with ASD—How explicit should we be?

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We know that the language skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary… a lot. While some children are impaired across all language domains, others have weaknesses in just a few. For example, one subgroup of children with ASD have a relative weakness in grammar compared to the other domains. For kids with impairments in grammar, it is common practice to use an implicit intervention approach.

Perhaps you use implicit strategies with your clients? Do you show them pictures, model, and provide corrective feedback and recasts (e.g., “That’s right! The dog is running!”)? These are all implicit (you’re basically bombarding the child with correct productions and hoping that it sticks). Sometimes, though, you might feel that implicit isn’t enough. With some of your clients, do you ever find it helpful to explicitly provide the grammatical rule that you’re working on (e.g., we add -ing because it’s an action word)?

The authors of this study wanted to see whether adding an explicit component to intervention would be advantageous for children with ASD*. Seventeen children with ASD (ages 4–10) were taught two novel grammatical forms by either a combined explicit–implicit approach or an implicit-only approach. The combined approach differed in one way—the rule was described to the kids during intervention, which ended up being advantageous. More children learned the rules and used the novel forms during the combined explicit–implicit approach compared to the implicit-only approach.  

So if you’re working with kids with ASD with grammatical weaknesses, should you present the rules during intervention? At this point, it’s worth a try. The authors did question the generalizability of the results because the sample in the study was not very diverse (all subjects were verbal with mild-moderate ASD); so while the explicit component could be helpful for some of your students, it’s important to keep this limitation in mind.

*Got deja vu? We’ve reviewed another study from this lab on explicit grammar intervention before, but that one looked at children with developmental language disorders (DLD).  This study extends those findings to a new population!

 

Bangert, K. J., Halverson, D. M., & Finestack, L. H. (2019). Evaluation of an explicit instructional approach to teach grammatical forms to children with low-symptom severity Autism Spectrum Disorder. American Journal of Speech–Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2018_AJSLP-18-0016

Language deficits in preschoolers born premature: How should we assess?

By now, it’s fairly well known that prematurity is a major risk factor for language delays in toddlerhood and beyond. But what do those language deficits look like and how can we assess them adequately?

This study examines these questions by comparing preschoolers born preterm* with their typically developing, full term counterparts. They examined both groups’ expressive language skills, nonverbal IQ, and attention skills, as well as parental reports of hyperactivity and attention problems.

A standardized language assessment (CELF-Preschool 2) and language sample analysis were used to assess expressive language skills, with some interesting results. The only significant difference in CELF-P2 results was the Recalling Sentences subtest, but every measure of semantic and grammatical skills was significantly lower in the language samples of the preterm group. Attentional difficulties partially explained these skill differences, but not hyperactivity or nonverbal IQ. Keep in mind that these results don’t necessarily match those of previous studies of children born preterm, but the authors of this study do a thorough job of explaining possible reasons for this in the discussion section.

What are the takeaways for evaluating preschoolers born preterm?

  1. Don’t forget the value of standardized sentence recall tasks as an indicator of language disorder.

  2. Language sample analysis is worth taking the time to complete. Structured, standardized language assessments don’t always adequately measure deficits in conversational language skills.

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Check out our previous reviews (there are so many of them!) if you’re feeling stuck on where to begin with language sample analysis. But if you’re involved in research or just curious about the details, be sure to click over to the article for an interesting discussion of which measures the authors chose to use and why.

*before 36 weeks gestation; also, the researchers excluded children with diagnoses that further increased their risk of delays (issues such as chromosomal abnormalities, meningitis, or grade III/IV intraventricular hemorrhage)

 

Imgrund, C. M., Loeb, D. F., & Barlow, S. M. (2019). Expressive Language in Preschoolers Born Preterm: Results of Language Sample Analysis and Standardized Assessment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2018_jslhr-l-18-0224

“I wish…I think…I wonder…”: Improving parents’ shared book readings

Shared book reading can be a sweet moment between parent and child—while also serving to improve a child’s literacy skills. The trick is figuring out how to help parents make the most of these interactions. This pilot study examined the effects of a short training on parent–child storybook readings. While this study focused on Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing preschoolers, most outcomes focused on the changes in the parents’ skills—meaning you can apply this across many populations.

Researchers recorded multiple shared book readings at each of three stages in the experiment: before training parents, in the “intervention period” (the two weeks following the parent training), and eight weeks after training. The training was only twenty minutes long (very do-able for real world clinicians!) and included a very short power point, a two-minute video model, and discussion with the parents. The authors focused on these topics for parent training:

  • Switching mindset from “education” to gaining insight into the child’s thoughts

  • No such thing as right or wrong

  • Increasing use of wait time

  • Increasing conversational turns

  • Making phonemic awareness fun and silly (like making up nonsense words by taking words in the text and changing one phoneme)

  • Using open ended prompts: “I wish…”  “I think…” “I wonder…” “What do you think?”

Parents were also given two booklets from the National Institute for Literacy and a few wordless picture books to add to their home collection.

When measuring parent interaction types, the authors split prompts into two categories:

Open-Ended Prompts

Questions that encourage open-ended discussion: “What do you think…

Indirect prompts such as “I think…” or “I hope…” paired with wait time

Closed-Ended or Right/Wrong Prompts

WH questions about the story text: “What is that?” “Where is her bone?

Questions about the story text that encourage one word answers

Yes/no questions or “how many” questions

For only spending twenty minutes on parent training, researchers saw some encouraging changes! Both the total number of parent–child exchanges and the percentage of open-ended prompts increased from baseline, through the intervention and retention stages. The percentage of words spoken by the child was also higher in the intervention and retention stages (though only the intervention stage showed a statistically significant difference from baseline levels). Because a dip was shown in all outcomes during the retention stage, eight weeks after training, it looks like clinicians will probably need to follow-up with parents periodically.

For more along these lines, check out our reviews about supporting parents to complete literacy programs, teaching vocabulary via shared readings, and improving the narrative comprehension of children with ASD.

Nelson, L. H., Stoddard, S. M., Fryer, S. L., & Muñoz, K. (2019). Increasing Engagement of Children Who Are DHH During Parent–Child Storybook Reading. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi:10.1177/1525740118819662

Better word learning through repeated retrieval

With vocabulary, there’s a tendency to talk about “teaching” and “probing” as two separate things, with too much of the latter getting in the way of the former. But as it turns out, asking your students to recall words you’ve recently taught them can be an important part of teaching. Depending on where you got your SLP training, concepts like “spaced retrieval” may have been part of your curriculum in adult cognitive therapy, but we can apply those same ideas to working with our preschool-aged friends with developmental language disorder (DLD) as well! We know our young clients with DLD struggle to learn new words, and vocabulary deficits can snowball over time, with negative effects on literacy and language, so anything we can do to improve that process is definitely worth knowing about.

In the first of a pair of studies from Leonard, Haebig, and colleagues, the authors taught novel (meaning, invented) words to a group of preschoolers (about age 5) with and without DLD. Half the words were taught with a procedure called repeated retrieval with contextual reinstatement (RRCR), that worked like this:

  1. Learn a new target word (see a picture paired with 3 exposures to the word and a simple definition)

  2. Prompt to recall (retrieve) that word, then hear the name/definition again (study the word)

  3. Learn 3 more words

  4. Retrieve the target word again, then study the word

  5. Learn 3 more words

  6. Retrieve the target word a third time, then study the word

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The “contextual reinstatement” part of RRCR comes from the fact that the attempts to retrieve the word are broken up by exposures to different words (in steps 3 and 5 above). The other half of the words were taught with the same procedure, but without the prompts to recall the word, so at steps 2, 4, and 6, the children just got the additional chances to study the target word.

For children with and without DLD, the repeated retrieval condition resulted in better word learning (about 2.5 more word forms recalled out of 8 in a labeling task, and 1 more definition) both 5 minutes and 1 week after teaching. Note that the same advantage didn’t hold if they were tested using a multiple-choice format (think the PPVT), which is an easier task than naming pictures. An even cooler part of the results? The children with DLD did just as well as the typically-developing kids, with the same number of exposures to the target words.

And how important is that “contextual reinstatement” piece, anyway? That’s the question the second of the two studies examined. They compared a slightly different RRCR protocol with immediate retrieval, where kids needed to recall taught words right after learning them, without other words being presented in between:

  • Immediate retrieval: Learn a word, retrieve and study that word three times, then repeat with two other words. 

  • RRCR: Learn a word, retrieve and study that word once, then repeat with two other words. Then retrieve/study the three words alternately, twice through (1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3). 

Similar to the previous results, the kids were much better at remembering words learned via RRCR. So it’s not just the retrieval aspect that’s important, but needing to retrieve information after thinking about something else in between. So while there’s still more to learn (How many words can you teach at a time via this method? What’s the best retrieval schedule to use?), this is a powerful concept that you can bring to your own intervention.

 

Leonard, L. B., Karpicke, J., Deevy, P., Weber, C., Christ, S., Haebig, E., … Krok, W. (2019). Retrieval-Based Word Learning in Young Typically Developing Children and Children With Developmental Language Disorder I: The Benefits of Repeated Retrieval. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-18-0070

Haebig, E., Leonard, L. B., Deevy, P., Karpicke, J., Christ, S. L., Usler, E., … Weber, C. (2019). Retrieval-Based Word Learning in Young Typically Developing Children and Children With Development Language Disorder II: A Comparison of Retrieval Schedules. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-18-0071

Individual vs. group language sessions: Does it matter?

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The only way that most school SLPs can even hope to schedule their caseloads is to see children in groups. Unfortunately, we don’t have much evidence on how grouping affects children’s progress. Groups might be distracting—or, children may actually benefit from hearing the teaching directed toward their peers.

Eidsvåg and colleagues treated a group of preschoolers with developmental language disorder (DLD) and morphological errors either individually or in pairs. The researchers selected a target and a control morpheme for each child. For children in the group condition, they also tracked a third “ambient” morpheme—the one that their peer was learning. The children received enhanced conversational recast treatment, where clinicians get children’s attention before recasting their errors using a variety of verbs. Each child heard 24 recasts of their target morpheme per session, which means that children in the group condition also heard 24 recasts of their partner’s target morpheme.  

Confirming earlier studies, the researchers found that the treatment was effective. Children in both conditions were better at using their targeted morpheme (but not their control morpheme) after 5 weeks of sessions. Gains in the individual vs. group conditions were similar, but children in the group condition did not improve on their peers’ target morphemes (meaning kids aren’t necessarily learning from instruction directed to their fellow group members).

So, it looks like group treatment for morphology is as effective as individual treatment, at least when the groups are small and when the dosage* of teaching episodes is the same. We can’t stress this point enough, though—kids got the exact same amount of teaching in each condition. In a mixed group of 4 kids, that probably won’t happen, and these results might not hold.

Psst! Check out Elena Plante’s advice for SLPs on keeping track of variability and dose during enhanced conversational recast sessions in a note on this review.

*Want to think more on dosage? Scan down to Schmitt et al., here, and also read here.

 

Eidsvåg, S. S., Plante, E., Oglivie, T., Privette, C., & Mailend, M.-L. (2019). Individual versus small group treatment of morphological errors for children with developmental language disorder. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. doi:10.1044/2018_LSHSS-18-0033

Starting with the hard stuff: Complexity for morphology

We’ve talked about the complexity approach to speech and grammar treatment before. The idea is that if we work on the hard stuff, we can get easier skills that weren’t targeted directly. In speech treatment, this means working on later-developing sounds or clusters to get earlier-developing sounds or singletons. In grammar treatment, we might target a morpheme in a more difficult context to get the same morpheme in an easier one.

De Anda and colleagues wanted to know whether the complexity approach would help with copula and auxiliary BE* production.  They point out that auxiliaries might be harder than copulas because they also require the –ing verb ending. Also, copulas and auxiliaries are harder in question forms because you have to switch the word order (e.g., “Is the dog tired?” or “Is the dog running?”).

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The study included a single child, a 3-year-old boy with average overall language scores but difficulty with grammatical morpheme production. Researchers used scenes, puppets, and a prompting hierarchy to elicit singular and plural auxiliary questions (e.g., “Is the dog eating” or “Are the dogs eating?”—see the article Appendix for example scripts). Each treatment session included 30 trials, which took place during ten 20–45-minute sessions over 2.5 weeks. Probes and a language sample were repeated after the final treatment.

As treatment went on, the child needed fewer prompts to produce auxiliaries in questions. In probes after treatment, he had higher accuracy on copula BE in statements. (Language sample results were more mixed, though.) Of course, this is a single case study with a pre-post design, so, not the strongest evidence. However, the study did show that it was feasible to elicit auxiliary BE in questions even for a child who wasn’t yet attempting that structure. If you’re already working on auxiliary and copula BE with a child, it might be more efficient to target BE in questions first.

 

*Quick grammar reminder: forms of BE include am, is, are, was, and were. Copula BE is a linking verb, like in “The dog is tired.” Auxiliary BE is a helping verb, as in “The dog is running.”

De Anda, S., Blossom, M., & Abel, A. D. (2019) A complexity approach to treatment of tense and agreement deficits: A case study. Communication Disorders Quarterly. doi:10.1177/1525740118822477