Variability in the Language Input to Children Enhances Learning in a Treatment Context Purpose Artificial language learning studies have demonstrated that learners exposed to many different nonword combinations representing a grammatical form demonstrate rapid learning of that form without explicit instruction. However, learners presented with few exemplars, even when they are repeated frequently, fail to learn the underlying grammar. This study translated this ... Research Article
Research Article  |   November 01, 2014
Variability in the Language Input to Children Enhances Learning in a Treatment Context
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elena Plante
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Trianna Ogilvie
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Rebecca Vance
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Jessica M. Aguilar
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Natalie S. Dailey
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Christina Meyers
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Anne Marie Lieser
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Rebecca Burton
    University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Elena Plante: eplante@email.arizona.edu
  • Editor: Carol Scheffner Hammer
    Editor: Carol Scheffner Hammer×
  • Associate Editor: Teresa Ukrainetz
    Associate Editor: Teresa Ukrainetz×
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   November 01, 2014
Variability in the Language Input to Children Enhances Learning in a Treatment Context
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2014, Vol. 23, 530-545. doi:10.1044/2014_AJSLP-13-0038
History: Received April 4, 2013 , Revised August 4, 2013 , Accepted March 9, 2014
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2014, Vol. 23, 530-545. doi:10.1044/2014_AJSLP-13-0038
History: Received April 4, 2013; Revised August 4, 2013; Accepted March 9, 2014
Web of Science® Times Cited: 12

Purpose Artificial language learning studies have demonstrated that learners exposed to many different nonword combinations representing a grammatical form demonstrate rapid learning of that form without explicit instruction. However, learners presented with few exemplars, even when they are repeated frequently, fail to learn the underlying grammar. This study translated this experimental finding in a therapeutic context.

Method Eighteen preschool children with language impairment received conversational recast treatment for morpheme errors. Over a 6-week period, half heard 12 unique verbs twice each during recasts (low-variability condition), and half heard 24 unique verbs (high-variability condition). Children's use of trained and untrained morphemes on generalization probes as well as spontaneous use of trained morphemes was tracked throughout treatment.

Results The high-variability condition only produced significant change in children's use of trained morphemes, but not untrained morphemes. Data from individual children confirmed that more children in the high- than the low-variability condition showed a strong treatment effect. Children in the high-variability condition also produced significantly more unique utterances containing their trained morpheme than children in the low-variability condition.

Conclusion The results support the use of highly variable input in a therapeutic context to facilitate grammatical morpheme learning.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported in part by Research Grant R01DC004726-S1 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and by a generous donation by Cécile Moore. Portions of this article were presented at the April 2013 Arizona Speech, Language, and Hearing Convention, Phoenix, AZ.
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