Relationship between language and planning in children with DLD

Larson, C., Gangopadhyay, I., Kaushanskaya, M., & Weismer, S. E. (2019). The relationship between language and planning in children with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 62(8), 2772-2784.

Aim of the paper:

This paper looks into the effects of language abilities on children’s planning performance. Planning performance involves using abilities such as working memory and inhibition. Additionally, it requires verbal mediation. Verbal mediation is a language ability involving an ‘inner-speech’ for reflection and guiding behaviours.

The authors look at whether planning performance in general differs between children with DLD and typically developing children. Additionally, they examine if language ability impacts planning performance within the two sample groups. The children had to complete a planning task. There were three conditions. The baseline condition required children to complete the task on its own. The other condition involved disrupting verbal mediation, where children had to say the word ‘maybe’ when they heard a beep throughout the trials. The third condition involved children having to tap on a pedal when they heard the beep.

What was found:

• Overall, both groups completed the planning tasks with similar levels of accuracy across all three conditions.

• For the condition where verbal mediation was disrupted, children with DLD took longer to plan for the task compared to typically developing children.

• DLD children who had higher levels of language abilities were quicker to plan compared to DLD children with lower levels of language abilities when verbal mediation was disrupted. This may be because children with better language abilities understand their limitations better. They may be able to use other strategies which do not require high language abilities to complete the task instead.

What does this mean?

Overall, planning performance differed between children with DLD and typically developing children when verbal mediation was disrupted. They did not differ, however, for baseline conditions where they had to just complete the task. Children with DLD are suggested to use strategies not requiring high language abilities to complete the tasks. However, this can be problematic in educational settings which commonly involve tasks requiring good language abilities such as planning, problem solving and reasoning. This switch in strategies may not be useful here. However, this alternating between strategies can also be useful for other tasks which are more visuospatial. From these findings, the authors recommend that interventions should look into developing children’s ability to focus on strategies that are most appropriate for the task, and to inhibit strategies that are not as useful.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email and request a copy of the paper.