To determine whether children with specific language impairment (SLI) demonstrate impaired visual fast mapping skills compared with unimpaired peers and to test components of visual working memory that may contribute to a visual working memory deficit.
Fifty children (25 SLI) played 2 computer-based visual fast mapping games where they watched an animation about a dinosaur and then identified visual features from the movie. Experiments manipulated the complexity of the visual content or taxed capacity. Analyses included mixed-model analysis of variance, t tests, and correlations.
There was evidence for impaired visual working memory skills for children with SLI, but not in all conditions. There was no evidence that children with SLI were more susceptible to high-complexity information: both groups performed worse on the high-complexity conditions. There was also no evidence that children with SLI had limited capacity for visual memory.
This provides support for a domain-general deficit in children with SLI, although visual impairments are milder than verbal impairments. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of working memory, specifically the concepts of focus of attention and limited capacity. We suggest that the source of the difficulty for the SLI group may be due to interference.