Attentional Control in Preschool Children with Specific Language Impairment
AuthorSpaulding, Tammie J
KeywordsSpeech, Language, & Hearing Sciences
Committee ChairPlante, Elena
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis research was guided by a theoretical framework positing that children with typical language apply general cognitive resources, such as attention, to facilitate language acquisition, and limitations in these processes may contribute to poor language skills. From this perspective, studying the attentional functioning of children who exhibit difficulty with language would have value for both informing this theory and understanding the nature of the disorder. However, research on the attention of children with specific language impairment (SLI) is limited, as only a few subdomains have been addressed to date. In addition, although school-age children with SLI have been studied, the assessment of attentional functioning in preschool children with this disorder has been minimal. This is likely the result the limitations inherent to the methods used for evaluating attentional skills at younger ages. The purpose of this research was to extend a method previously used successfully with preschool children to study selected aspects of attentional control including susceptibility to distraction, inhibitory control, and updating skills. The research questions were: (a) Do children with SLI exhibit increased susceptibility to distraction relative to their typically-developing peers, and if so, does it vary according to the type of distracter (visual, nonverbal-auditory, linguistic) presented? (b) Do children with SLI exhibit poor inhibitory control relative to their typically-developing peers? (c) Do children with SLI and their typically-developing peers display evidence of updating? Thirty-one preschool children with SLI and 31 controls participated in two computer tasks designed to assess these mechanisms of attentional control. The susceptibility to distraction task involved resisting distracters presented in different stimulus modalities (visual and auditory-linguistic/nonlinguistic). Inhibition and updating skills were assessed using a stop signal paradigm. In comparison to typically-developing children, the children with SLI exhibited increased susceptibility to distraction and poor inhibitory control. Unlike the controls, they exhibited no evidence of updating. The results of this investigation will contribute to a long-term goal of addressing how attention may affect language acquisition in children with SLI. In addition, the successful methodology employed in this study may offer an improved procedure for diagnosing attentional difficulties at an early age, regardless of language status.
Degree ProgramSpeech, Language, & Hearing Sciences