Developmental language disorder (DLD) is one of the most common developmental disorders, affecting about 7% of children. DLD has a profound negative impact on the health and well-being of affected children and adolescents. Current treatments for DLD are at best moderately effective and take a long time to achieve results. In this project, we aim to identify which teaching methods that maximize word learning for older preschool and primary school children with DLD. In addition, we will investigate brain activity to determine which aspects of language processing that are affected by this teaching, as this understanding is critical to further improve treatments.
The teaching will focus on the effects of two promising methods: 1) recall practice with varying degrees of support and 2) instruction about the smallest meaning-bearing elements of language, morphemes (e.g. ‘co-’ in ‘cooperate’ and ‘-ist’ in guitarist). Morphemes recur in many words, and knowledge about these morphemes may therefore be used to figure out the meanings of new words. The teaching will be carried out with an app where the child and educator can work together. The main anticipated outcome is concrete directions for how to effectively teach new words to children with DLD. The study of brain activity will also give us a better understanding of the learning mechanisms that are affected by training. The results are expected to spur development of new teaching programs that can be tested in randomized controlled trials.
Developmental language disorder (DLD) is one of the most common developmental disorders, affecting approximately 7% of children. Current treatments for DLD fall short in efficacy and efficiency. This project aims to identify treatment parameters that maximize word learning for children with DLD. Moreover, to understand the mechanisms that underlie possible treatment effects, the project will use electrophysiology to pinpoint which aspects of the language processing that are affected by these treatments. The treatments will be delivered through an app-based approach where children and educators can work together. The training will focus on different types of recall practice and instruction about the smallest meaning-bearing elements of language, morphemes. R & D challenges involve 1) obtaining reliable electrophysiological data from relatively young children and 2) possible dropout as children are required to undergo testing at several time points. These risks are minimized by the fact that the research team has extensive experience performing electrophysiological studies with children even younger than the participants in the present study, and the American partners have carried out several long-term treatment studies with young children requiring assessments at several time points. The main anticipated potential is that the project will offer concrete directions for treatment of DLD. The results are expected to spur development of new treatment designs that can be tested in randomized controlled trials.