Complexity in Language Learning and Treatment Purpose To introduce a Clinical Forum focused on the Complexity Account of Treatment Efficacy (C. K. Thompson, L. P. Shapiro, S. Kiran, & J. Sobecks, 2003), a counterintuitive but effective approach for treating language disorders. This approach espouses training complex structures to promote generalized improvement of simpler, linguistically related structures. ... Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum  |   February 01, 2007
Complexity in Language Learning and Treatment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Cynthia K. Thompson
    Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Contact author: Cynthia K. Thompson, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, 2240 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-3540. E-mail: ckthom@northwestern.edu.
Article Information
Development / Language Disorders / Clinical Forum: Complexity in Language Learning and Treatment
Clinical Forum   |   February 01, 2007
Complexity in Language Learning and Treatment
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2007, Vol. 16, 3-5. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2007/002)
History: Received November 11, 2004 , Accepted August 23, 2006
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2007, Vol. 16, 3-5. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2007/002)
History: Received November 11, 2004; Accepted August 23, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 22

Purpose To introduce a Clinical Forum focused on the Complexity Account of Treatment Efficacy (C. K. Thompson, L. P. Shapiro, S. Kiran, & J. Sobecks, 2003), a counterintuitive but effective approach for treating language disorders. This approach espouses training complex structures to promote generalized improvement of simpler, linguistically related structures. Three articles are included, addressing complexity in treatment of phonology, lexical-semantics, and syntax.

Method Complexity hierarchies based on models of normal language representation and processing are discussed in each language domain. In addition, each article presents single-subject controlled experimental studies examining the complexity effect. By counterbalancing treatment of complex and simple structures across participants, acquisition and generalization patterns are examined as they emerge.

Results In all language domains, cascading generalization occurs from more to less complex structures; however, the opposite pattern is rarely seen. The results are robust, with replication within and across participants.

Conclusions The construct of complexity appears to be a general principle that is relevant to treating a range of language disorders in both children and adults. While challenging the long-standing clinical notion that treatment should begin with simple structures, mounting evidence points toward the facilitative effects of using more complex structures as a starting point for treatment.

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