Prosem Lecture: Measurement of Language Structure and Function in Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Sep. 18, 2017
12:05 PM – 1:00 PM
B62 Goodnight Hall

Language samples provide a naturalistic context to gain information about oral communication skills in children, and can quantify expressive language ability in terms of complexity of organization (macrostructure) and linguistic structure (microstructure; Petersen, Gillam, Spencer & Gillam, 2010). Language samples can be collected during a natural conversation, or through narrative. For children with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), each setting provides a unique opportunity to evaluate language macrostructure and microstructure outside of what can be measured using standardized language assessment tools in order to gain information regarding the relationship between children’s language form and function (Barton-Hulsey, Sevcik, & Romski, 2017).

This presentation will discuss relationships found between expressive communication, reading comprehension, and social communication in two separate studies involving 102 and 49 children each with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Each of these studies used measurement techniques of language sampling that quantify the structure and function of expressive language.

In the first study, a narrative language sample was elicited with 102 students with IDD using the wordless picture book Frog Goes to Dinner (Mayer, 1969) after 120 hours of reading instruction. An adapted version of the Narrative Scoring Scheme (NSS; Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, & Dunaway, 2010; Finestack, Palmer & Abbeduto, 2012) was used to derive scores for seven different macrostructural narrative elements including Introduction, Character Development, Mental States, Referencing, Conflict/Resolution, Cohesion and Conclusion. In the second study, a conversational language sample (Berry-Kravis, et al., 2013) was used to measure the relationship between expressive language ability and social discourse used by boys with idiopathic autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to boys with fragile X syndrome and ASD (FXS + ASD).

Results from each study indicated that language sampling methods that described children’s function of utterances added a significant amount of unique variance that explained outcomes of reading comprehension in children with IDD, and structural language ability of children with ASD and FXS + ASD. This presentation will discuss the contributions of language sampling techniques that describe both language structure and quantify language function to characterize the language ability of children with IDD, and the impact of this language ability on functional outcomes of reading and social communication.