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Comprehension problems in children with specific language impairment: does mental imagery training help?

by Victoria L Joffe, Kate Cain, Nataša Mari
International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders INT. J ()
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Abstract

Background: Children with specific language impairment experience story comprehension deficits. Research with typically developing children, poor comprehenders and poor readers has shown that the use of mental imagery aids in the comprehension of stories. Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention programme in the use of mental imagery to improve the literal and inferential comprehension of children with specific language impairment. Methods & Procedures: Nine children with specific language impairment were trained to produce mental images for sentences and stories in five 30-min sessions. Their ability to answer literal and inferential questions about short narratives was assessed pre-and post-intervention and compared with the performance of 16 same-age typically developing controls. Outcome & Results: The intervention improved the question–answering performance of the children with specific language impairment for both literal and inferential questions: the improvement was only significant for the literal questions. Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that a relatively short intervention in the use of mental imagery is an effective way to boost the story comprehension of children with specific language impairment. What this paper adds Children with specific language impairment (SLI) experience story comprehension deficits: their ability to recall facts from stories and their ability to generate inferences is weak. Other populations of children with story comprehension deficits benefit from being taught support strategies, such as use of mental imagery to represent story details. The study demonstrates that children with specific language impairment can be taught to generate mental images to represent story details. This technique enhanced their story comprehension. It showed that a short period of intervention using mental imagery enhanced literal and inferential understanding in the specific language impaired group.

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