Language Impairment of Children
Language Impairment of Children
Some children don’t learn to talk easily not because of poor hearing, not because of poorly functioning speech organs, but because of a language learning disability, It often takes a highly skilled examiner to show that they are not deaf, or mentally retarded or psychologically disturbed, for to the casual observer they look as if they do have these handicap.
Their problems vary. The trouble may be that they cannot pay attention long enough to learn, or that they cannot easily store and recall sound patterns and meanings, or that they cannot formulate their ideas in words.
Three-and-a-half-year-old Brian had such a language-learning problem. His speech wasn’t much better than his two year-old brother’s. When Brian tried to speak he got very upset.
He used gestures to try to make people understand him. Playing with neighborhood children was difficult for him because he could not communicate with them. By the time he was three he had become so frustrated that he began hitting and scratching his playmates.
One day he returned from a nursery school trip to the zoo and in great excitement tried to tell the family what he had seen. No one could understand him. Brian threw his dinner on the floor and fled screaming to his room where he stayed all evening.
His mother described him as terribly active, almost impossible to discipline, and a child who wanted to be in the spotlight all the time. She felt sure that the problem was not poor hearing. Instead, she and her husband thought the difficulty must be due to Brian’s extreme jealousy of his baby brother.
A hearing test did prove Brian’s hearing to be perfectly normal. But an examination by a speech pathologist showed that Brian used a strange language formula when he talked. He strung together one syllable words which held a lot of meaning for him and left out all :,he small words like “the”, “a”, “and”, “in”, and “with”, which made what he said appear nonsense to his listeners. He left the endings off many words and substituted some letters for others. When Brian said: “Ray go too, da tuh Boh too,” he meant “Ray went and Daddy took Bobby too.”
Brian has been enrolled in a special nursery school program which offers group teaching and individual therapy for children with language-learning problems. Through a combination of teaching and testing the specially trained people working with Brian have been able to narrow in on his problems.
His major difficulty seems to be a poor auditory memory span, which puts his capacity two years below his age level. This means that Brian cannot remember sounds in the order in which he hears them. “Lips”and “lisp” sound like the same word to him.
He can recall two digits, like “four, six” and say them back to you, but when it comes to three digits, like “four, six, ifve,” Brian is apt to say: “four, six . . . (long pause) … two?”
His poor memory for sounds is probably responsible for his unintelligible pronunciation. He cannot always remember just how a word should be pronounced. He also has a related problem, difficulty controlling his attention and concentrating on what he is supposed to do.
When the class stops a free-play session and switches to a story-listening period, Brian cannot shift his attention easily. He becomes excited and runs about the room. He also has difficulty following directions. He is not willful and disobedient, he just can’t remember instructions long enough to obey and has to struggle to interpret a long series of commands.
Brian has a normal intelligence. He needs help in stretching his attention span, in leaning to remember sounds so that he can store them in his head and repeat them correctly when he needs to use a word later.
What causes language-learning problems?
No one yet knows all the answers to that question, but it does seem evident that the brain and nervous system don’t function correctly. Again the cause may be an inborn developmental mistake, birth injury, exposure to virus diseases or drugs which can damage the growing infant, or severe head injuries.
These children too can be taught and helped to overcome their handicaps. Teachers use methods which involve the other senses, such as vision and touch, to assist a child like Brian in remembering the correct sounds. Brian may learn the word “airplane” more easily when he can look at a picture of a plane and hold a model plane in his hands.
It is seldom possible to determine at once just what the nature of the child’s problem is. But as the teacher tries different methods and uses different tests, she will be able to better understand just where the difficulty lies and what approach will work best. This process is called diagnostic teaching because it combines diagnosis with therapy.
By the time Brian was four-and-a-half his speech was much more intelligible. His vocabulary has grown considerably and at home he is teaching his baby brother new words and correcting him when he makes mistakes. Brian talks more often without relying on gestures to make himself understood. Most important, he feels less frustrated, more relaxed, as every
day he comes a bit closer to the speaking world.
He will need several more years of special teaching before he can enter a regular school program, but he will probably make it, thanks to thorough testing, skilled teaching, and parents who weren’t satisfied with the explanation that Brian was just jealous of a baby brother.
Language Impairment of Children article source : Learning to talk by National Inst. of Health Bethesda ,Md, document