Background: Children with Primary Language Impairment (PLI) show subtle
weaknesses in nonlinguistic cognitive processing (NCP) skills such as attention,
memory, and speed of processing. It is possible that these weaknesses contribute
causally to the language delays that characterize PLI. For bilingual children with PLI,
NCP weaknesses would underlie language learning ability for both languages. The
purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between NCP skills and language
skills in bilingual children with PLI by treating processing speed and attention.
Methods: A total of 24 participants in three groups (NCP treatment, English language
treatment, and delayed treatment control) completed the study protocol. All participants
were Spanish-English bilingual children with PLI between the ages of 6 and 10 years.
All participants completed an extensive battery of assessments indexing NCP, English
language, and Spanish language skills both before and after a treatment cycle. Analyses
examined change for individuals, for each group separately, and for the three groups in
comparison to one another.
Results: Children who completed the NCP treatment showed significant change in processing speed and in overall English language skills. However, children who
completed the English language treatment tended to make greater gains, both in English
and in NCP skills. Few comparisons between the three groups reached significance, in
part because the delayed treatment control group tended to make positive change and in
part because of the small sample size. Individual variability was apparent across all
three groups, but particularly pronounced for Spanish.
Conclusions: The results support a connection between NCP and language skills in
children with PLI. Language-based treatment programs may effectively alter NCP
skills, and NCP treatment programs may alter language skills.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2011. Major: Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Kohnert. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 156 pages, appendices A-B.
Ebert, Kerry Danahy.
A comparison between nonlinguistic cognitive processing treatment and traditional language treatment for bilingual children with primary language impairment.
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