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Information Processing and Language Comprehension in Children with Specific Language Impairment

Montgomery, James W. PhD

Topics in Language Disorders: May 2002 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 62–84
Information Processing: Implications for Assessment and Intervention

Many children with specific language impairment (SLI) exhibit co-occurring deficits in information processing and spokenlanguage comprehension. While it has been assumed that the language comprehension problems of these children are related, at least in part, to poor processing, relatively little is known aboutsuch a relation.In this article we examine several sub-constructs of information processing and their potential association withthe poorer language comprehension of children with SLI. We arguethat some of the language comprehension problems of children with SLI are related to certain information processing inefficiencies. Techniques for both language assessment and intervention are offered.

THE COMPREHENSION of spoken language results from a complex interaction of language-specific knowledge sources, language-specific processing operations, and various information processing abilities. Comprehending a sentence like “The tall guy, who's standing outside room 126, is the really hard math teacher” involves such things as perceptual processes, verbal working memory, various aspects of attention, access to lexical long-term memory, and selection and integration of different language schemes. Moreover, such processes, working in parallel, appear to operate within a limited capacity information processing system (e.g., Just & Carpenter, 1992; Kail & Salthouse, 1994). With respect to children with specific language impairment (SLI), many of these children exhibit deficits across a wide range of language skills, including comprehension, as well as information processing abilities.Some investigators have argued that thel anguage learning/performance problems of some of these children are related, in part, to inefficient information processing. However, any such relation has just begun to be systematically explored. In this article, we focus on the potential association between various information processing abilities and the understanding of spoken language by children with SLI. Specifically, we focus on several information processing variables.

Associate Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Many of the studies reported in this article that were conducted by the author were supported by a research grant (R29 DC 02535) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health.

© 2002 Aspen Publishers, Inc.