Interventions Help Children Overcome Language Problems
For children who struggle to learn language, the choice between the numerous interventions may matter less than the intensity and format of the intervention according to a study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Akinso: For children who struggle to learn language, the choice between the numerous interventions may matter less than the intensity and format of the intervention according to a study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The aim of the study was to assess whether kids who used a commercially available language software program, had greater improvement in language skills than kids using other methods. Dr. Judith Cooper, the NIDCD Deputy Director, discusses the intensive process that the children went through.
Cooper: The purpose of this study was to compare some of the various treatments that are available on a very large scale. This was in fact probably the biggest study that's been done. There were over two hundred children involved in this study and they were randomly assigned to four different treatments. And we had about 54 children in each of the 4 treatment types. The setup was in this study was that the children came to somewhat of a summer school kind of program and the language intervention that they received lasted an hour and forty minutes five days a week for six weeks. And when they weren't in intervention they had an opportunity to play with other children in the classroom. And the study tested the children in their language abilities before they receive treatment then immediately after they received treatment and then to look at the long-term effects of treatment they tested 3 months after treatment was over and then six months after treatment was over.
Akinso: The study included an individual language intervention with a speech-language pathologist, two computer-assisted language interventions, and a nonlanguage academic enrichment intervention that focused only on math, science and geography. Dr. Cooper says language impairment can improve with hard work.
Cooper: The take home message to me is really exciting. First of all, it's clear that children with specific language impairment can improve and can improve dramatically. However that seems to have to be paired with some rather intensive and focused intervention. It seems that it's not so much for clinicians and parents to have to choose well which intervention does my child need, it's rather the intensity of the intervention and the format of the intervention that's really important. All of these interventions require that the child listen intently and carefully, pay close attention, and respond quickly. And all of this was also paired with a chance to interact with other children, in a situation where they can share language abilities.
Akinso: Of the children who worked with a speech-language pathologist, 80 percent made large gains. About 74 percent of those in the group using the Fast ForWord-Language computer-assisted language program, which is specially designed to improve auditory processing deficits which may underlie some language impairments, made big improvements. Of the children in the general academic enrichment group, almost 69 percent made large gains. And 63 percent of children in the other computer-assisted language intervention group made large improvements on language measures. Dr. Cooper said these gains are much larger than the improvements that have been reported in long-term studies of children who have received language therapy in public school settings. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Judith Cooper
Topic: Language impairment