Language in Special Populations
POINTS OF INTEREST
· otitis media & language development
· cerebral palsy & communication skills
· language therapy programs
Clinicians are often presented with children whose difficulties are often
very different from children with traditional speech and language
problems. Their conditions include specific disorders such as autism
spectrum disorder (ASD), cerebral palsy, otitis media, or fetal alcohol
syndrome. Some children may have special needs due to social
origins such as socio-economic factors or dual language learning.
Specific clinical knowledge is often required to assess and treat these
children. Children with autism learn language differently than children
with specific language impairment, and require very different
therapy goals and activities. To perform accurate assessments and set
appropriate intervention goals, clinicians must be knowledgeable with
respect to factors affecting language learning and development in specific
With respect to assessment, one review concluded that methods for developing cross-cultural speech and language assessment tools should include working with consultants to ensure that the words, terminology, and wording of questions and statements convey the appropriate message. Test materials that rely on images of normally-developing children may not be sufficiently valid as stimuli for testing special populations. The other review on assessment concluded that speech language clinics should be encouraged to design and implement early literacy screening protocols. Protocols should include tests of phonological awareness, letter/name knowledge, grapheme/morpheme correspondence, and so forth. The screening device can be used to identify children at risk for literacy difficulties and to determine whether children with literacy difficulties might benefit from the services of a speech-language pathologist. Two reviews examined assessment for children with autism. One provided early diagnostic indicators of ASD (e.g., pointing, showing objects, looking at another’s face, orienting to name). The review also suggested that children with autism can be reliably diagnosed by 24 months of age.
A range of
intervention practices for children with autism were examined and a range
of approaches (e.g., speech and language, functional communication training,
increasing imitation, and social communication training) were found to be
effective. Conclusions about which approach was most effective were not
drawn. Clinicians can help facilitate treatment by providing interventions
early in children’s natural environments, and by embedding intervention and
goals in children’s daily routines. The other review found that early
intervention that included parent training elicited better outcomes than
other treatment approaches, however these results should be interpreted with
caution as only two studies with small sample sizes were included in the
Language intervention with linguistically diverse preschoolers is facilitated by promoting language development in home and school. Parent training and peer intervention training were suggested as effective methods. One article reviewed early intervention programs for environmentally disadvantaged children in programs such as Head Start, the Carolina Abecedarian Project, and the Perry Preschool Project. Programs that were longer, started earlier, continued to provide support after entry into school, focused directly on the children, fostered social interaction, had specific goals, and placed an emphasis on cognitive and linguistic competencies were particularly beneficial. Finally, because gesture development has parallels in spoken language development, it was advanced as a method of facilitating language development for both normally developing children and children with significant delays and disorders.
©2006 by Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation. All rights reserved.