- Narrative abilities, memory and attention in children with a specific language impairment
- International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
- Volume | Issue number
- 47 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Background: While narrative tasks have proven to be valid measures for detecting language disorders, measuring communicative skills and predicting future academic performance, research into the comparability of different narrative tasks has shown that outcomes are dependent on the type of task used. Although many of the studies detecting task differences touch upon the fact that tasks place differential demands on cognitive abilities like auditory attention and memory, few studies have related specific narrative tasks to these cognitive abilities. Examining this relation is especially warranted for children with specific language impairment (SLI), who are characterized by language problems, but often have problems in other cognitive domains as well.
Methods & Procedures: In the current research, a comparison was made between a story retelling task (The Bus Story) and a story generation task (The Frog Story) in a group of children with SLI (n= 34) and a typically developing group (n= 38) from the same age range. In addition to the two narrative tasks, sustained auditory attention (TEA-Ch) and verbal working memory (WISC digit span and the Dutch version of the CVLT-C word list recall) were measured. Correlations were computed between the narrative, the memory and the attention scores.
Outcomes & Results: A group comparison showed that the children with SLI scored significantly worse than the typically developing children on several narrative measures as well as on sustained auditory attention and verbal working memory. A within-subjects comparison of the scores on the two narrative tasks showed a contrast between the tasks on several narrative measures. Furthermore, correlational analyses showed that, on the level of plot structure, the story generation task correlated with sustained auditory attention, while the story retelling task correlated with word list recall. Mean length of utterance (MLU) on the other hand correlated with digit span but not with sustained auditory attention.
Conclusions: While children with SLI have problems with narratives in general, their performance is also dependent on the specific elicitation task used for research or diagnostics. Various narrative tasks generate different scores and are differentially correlated to cognitive skills like attention and memory, making the selection of a given task crucial in the clinical setting.
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