Verbal narratives in children with DLD

Epstein, S. A., & Phillips, J. (2009). Storytelling skills of children with specific language impairment. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 25(3), 285-300. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265659009339819


What was the aim?


Research suggests children with DLD have difficulties producing verbal narratives. Visual and verbal prompts can be used to support children’s narratives. However, there has been little agreement regarding which method is most effective. The study assessed 8 children with DLD’s verbal narratives, with visual and verbal prompts. The assessment looked at microstructural and macrostructural features. Visual prompts were wordless pictures. An example of a verbal prompt is “then what happened?”


  • Microstructure refers to the details of the specific language use in the narrative, such as the use of his/her and words like “and” and “or.”

  • Macrostructure refers to overall content and organisation of a narrative.

  • Core story components include elements such as the setting and the character’s actions and thoughts.


What was found?


  • Children produced an overall better organised narrative (better macrostructure) with picture prompts rather than verbal prompts.

  • There was no difference between picture and verbal prompts in the inclusion of different core story components.

  • The children produced significantly more his/her words (pronouns) in the verbal prompt condition compared to the picture prompt condition.

  • The number of “and”/“or” words (connective words) did not significantly differ between the verbal and picture conditions.


What does it mean?


The results show the visual condition produced greater narratives when looking at the macrostructure. Alternatively, for microstructure the verbal condition was more effective. However overall, the verbal condition produced better narratives, as they were more complex. For example, the verbal condition led to the children using a wider variety of pronouns. Although the verbal condition was harder, as the children had to produce the story components, rather than being shown aspects to discuss, the quality of the narratives were higher. These results show how the verbal prompts enabled the children to present a higher level of oral ability. Consequently, speech and language therapy and parents should use verbal prompts to aid in oral narratives of children with DLD.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.