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Identifying Young Children with Language Impairments: Measurement Issues Mabel L. Rice Presentation at ASHA Conference for Speech- Language Pathologists.

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Presentation on theme: "Identifying Young Children with Language Impairments: Measurement Issues Mabel L. Rice Presentation at ASHA Conference for Speech- Language Pathologists."— Presentation transcript:

1 Identifying Young Children with Language Impairments: Measurement Issues Mabel L. Rice Presentation at ASHA Conference for Speech- Language Pathologists in Schools Nashville, Tennessee Saturday, July 13, 2002

2 The Problem of Identification Kindergarten children with Specific Language Impairments (SLI) can be difficult to identify (cf. Only 29% of kindergarten children known to have SLI were enrolled in intervention; Tomblin et al., 1997) Variation in rates of language acquisition among young unaffected children adds to the complexity of identification of affected children

3 Conventional Measures, and the Normal Curve Assumption for Language Assessment Assumption of an age-referenced normal distribution of children on a general language dimension

4 Number of Children Performance Level

5 Related properties About 16% score 1 SD or more below the mean About 2% score 2 or more SD below the mean About 66% score within 1 SD of the mean

6 Positive applications Determine the prevalence of SLI (about 7% in 5-year-olds; Tomblin et al., 1997) Determine the likelihood of speech impairments with language impairment (less than 2% in the general population of 5-year- olds; Tomblin et al., 1997) Determine long-term prognosis (individuals are likely to remain in the low levels of performance; Johnson et al., 1999)

7 Limitations No intrinsic cut-off score for affected No obvious way to interpret the test score in terms of particular linguistic content No way to interpret a childs progress toward the adult grammar

8 A Grammatical Marker Approach Obligatory properties of clausal structure These balls/*these ball She is walking/*she walking She walks outside/*she walk outside Yesterday she walked outside/*yesterday she walk outside Does she like to walk?/*she like to walk?

9 Distributional Properties of a Grammatical Marker

10 Sensitivity and Specificity Sensitivity: rate of identifying true cases of affectedness Specificity: rate of identifying true cases of unaffectedness

11 Clinical Characteristics of a Grammatical Marker By a certain age, grammatical markers would show little variation across unaffected children Affected children would perform below the unaffected children High levels of sensitivity and specificity Content would be meaningful for interpretation of a childs language deficits Childs performance would be interpretable in terms of the adult grammar Markers could persist over time

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13 A Finiteness Grammatical Marker Theoretical Linguistics Morphology and syntax are related in the area of morphosyntax Finiteness is a property of clause structure that shows up as verbal forms inflected for tense and/or subject/verb agreement

14 Examples of finiteness markers Patsy walks home (third person singular subject, present tense) Patsy walked home yesterday (no subject agreement, regular past tense) Patsy ran home yesterday (no subject agreement, regular past tense) Patsy is walking (third person singular subject, auxiliary present tense) Patsy is happy (third person singular subject, copular present tense) Does Patsy walk home? (third person singular, auxiliary present tense)

15 In English, young children grow into consistent use of finiteness markers, during a period of Optional Infinitives (Wexler, 1994), evident in dropped finiteness markers, thought to be related to the need to mark grammatical tense (TNS).

16 Research with Young Children with SLI Criteria for SLI in Rice Longitudinal Study Inclusionary Expressive language: Low MLU Receptive language: Low comprehension vocabulary (PPVT) Low performance on standardized omnibus language test

17 Exclusionary No hearing loss Nonverbal IQ in normal range or above No known neurological or psychosocial problems Passed a phonological screening

18 Outcomes of Research SLI children start later, and show slower acquisition timing although similar growth curves

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20 Grammatical marker is apparent in judgments as well as productions

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22 Young children show variation that disappears by age 5 years, at adult grammar

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25 SLI children show variation in a range far below age expectations

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27 At the same time of variation as TNS- marking, other elements of morphosyntax are unaffected

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30 Lexical indices show consistent variation across the growth curve, and do not differentiate SLI from younger language- equivalent children

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33 Timing of acquisition differs for morphosyntactic and morphophonological components of TNS-marking Past tense variables Regular (e.g., walked) Finite (e.g., fell/falled) Irregular (e.g., fell)

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37 Growth curve components and predictors of growth are similar for TNS/finiteness indices, but differ from morphophonological index TNS productions Linear and quadratic components for SLI and MLU groups; same curves for both groups Non-predictors: Intelligence, vocabulary (PPVT- R), mothers education Predictor: MLU

38 Grammaticality Judgments: OI Grammar/Bad Agreement Grammar Linear and quadratic components for SLI and MLU groups; same curves for both groups Non-predictors: Intelligence, vocabulary (PPVT- R), mother's education Predictor: MLU

39 Irregular past tense Linear growth only, for both groups Non-predictors: Mother's education Predictors: MLU, vocabulary, intelligence Finite Past Tense Linear and quadratic components for SLI and MLU groups; same curves for both groups Non-predictors: Intelligence, vocabulary, mother's education Predictor: MLU

40 Conclusions: TNS/AGR marking (finiteness) follows growth curves that are linear + quadratic in shape and growth is not predicted by intelligence, vocabulary or mother's education, and is positively predicted by MLU, although not strongly. When morphophonological accuracy is included in the measurement, the growth curve becomes linear only and the predictors shift to include a child's vocabulary and non- verbal intelligence.

41 Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment Advantages compared to other language measures Focus on finiteness is conceptually sound in terms of the linguistic properties of adult grammar Performance can be directly interpreted as describing fundamental properties of what a child knows about grammar Performance can be interpreted in terms of a child's progress toward the adult grammar

42 Content focuses on a property of English grammar that is known to be well mastered by children before they enter school Focuses on a property of grammar known to be difficult for children with language impairments Can identify affected children whose sole developmental deficit is language impairment (i.e., SLI)

43 Well suited to identify children of school- entry age who need early intervention High levels of sensitivity and specificity, leading to accurate identification of affected children, without a high rate of false identification of unaffected children Includes a screening version

44 General Overview Consists of five probe tasks and screener: Phonological Third person singular Past tense BE/DO Grammaticality judgment Screener portion is average of third person singular and past tense

45 For children ages 3 to 8 years Normed to two groups of children per 6- month age interval: Language impaired group and control (normal) group

46 Procedures not usually found in conventional language tests Phonological probe as screening for test appropriateness Attention to the syntactic context for morphological assessment Focus on a morphological class instead of an individual item (e.g., regular verb morphology and class of these verbs instead of a particular lexical item)

47 Differentiation of grammatical functions of a given morpheme (e.g., BE copula vs. auxiliary, questions vs. statements) Percentage correct of "attempted structures" instead of items correct/total items (i.e., partitioning of off-task or irrelevant items out of scoring) Calculation of multiple outcomes scores, to form composites and to be considered individually

48 Video demonstration of procedures

49 Tryout and Standardization Sampling Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

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60 Outcomes Growth curves – percentiles and means per age, with reference to normal samples

61 Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

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63 Specificity/selectivity, with reference to normal and affected samples (bimodal distribution) percentage children per age group above or below a given level of performancebimodal distribution

64 Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

65 Criterion Scores Suggested "cut points" for performance within the normal range, referenced to affected group as well as normal group, with at least 80% sensitivity Example: For screening subtests for age range of 4.06 to 4.11, criterion =.65

66 Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

67 Further Data Reporting Means and standard deviations per measure, per group, per age level

68 Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

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70 Box and whiskers plot to show within group variation per measure per age level

71 Reproduced by Permission. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychology Corporation.

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80 Using the Rice/Wexler in Clinical Practice Establishing eligibility for services As a screening tool Interpreting the Rice/Wexler scores Elicited grammar composite Phonological probe Third person singular Past Tense BE/DO Grammaticality Judgments

81 Comparisons with related test data Interpreting children's performance relative to nonverbal intelligence and parental education levels

82 Concluding Comments A "marker" approach to identification adds a valuable clinical resource to assessment tools Estimates of sensitivity and specificity provide valuable reference points for establishing criteria for identification and tracking a child's progress level

83 Theoretically motivated research can generate new evidence that leads to new clinical instruments and new approaches to assessment

84 References Bedore, L. M., & Leonard, L. B. (1998). Specific Language Impairment and grammatical morphology: A discrimination function analysis. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, Fey, M. E., & Loeb, D. F. (2002). An evaluation of the facilitative effects of inverted yes-no questions on the acquisition of auxiliary verbs. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, Cleave, P. L., & Rice, M. L. (1997). An examination of the morpheme BE in children with specific language impairment: The role of contractibility and grammatical form class. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 40, Johnson, C. J., Beitchman, J. H., Young, A., Escobar, M., Atkinson, L., Wilson, B., Brownlie, E. G., Douglas, L., Taback, N., Lam, I., & Wang, M. (1999). Fourteen- year follow-up of outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, Norbury, C. F., Bishop, D. V. M., & Briscoe, J. (2001). Production of English finite verb morphology: A comparison of SLI and mild-moderate hearing impairments. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44,

85 Oetting, J. B., & McDonald, J. L. (2001). Nonmainstream dialect use and specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, Paradis, J., & Crago, M. (2000). Tense and temporality: A comparison between children learning a second language and children with SLI. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, Paradis, J., Crago, M., Genesee, F., & Rice, M. L. (2001, June). French- English bilingual children with SLI: How do they compare with their monolingual peers? Poster presented at the Symposium for Research on Children with Language Disorders, Madison, WI. Redmond, S. M., & Rice, M. L. (1998). The socioemotional behaviors of children with SLI: Social adaptation or social deviance? Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, Rice, M. L. (1999, July). GAPS over time: Longitudinal observations of children with SLI. Paper presented at the VIIth congress of the International Association for the Study of Child Language, San Sebastian, Spain.

86 Rice, M. L. (2000). Grammatical symptoms of specific language impairment. In D. V. M. Bishop & L. B. Leonard (Eds.), Speech and language impairments in children: Causes, characteristics, intervention and outcome. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press Ltd. Rice, M. L. (in press). A unified model of specific and general language delay: Grammatical tense as a clinical marker of unexpected variation. To appear in Y. Levy & J. Schaeffer (Eds.), Language competence across populations: Toward a definition of SLI: Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Rice, M. L., & Bode, J. (1993). Gaps in the verb lexicons of children with specific language impairment. First Language, 13, Rice, M. L., Mervis, C., Klein, B. P., & Rice, K. J. (1999, November). Children with Williams syndrome do not show an EOI stage. Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston.

87 Rice, K. J., Rice, M. L, & Redmond, S. M. (2000, June). MLU outcomes for children with and without SLI: Support for MLU as a matching criterion. Paper presented at the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, Madison, WI. Rice, M. L., Spitz, R. V., & O'Brien, M. (1999). Semantic and morphosyntactic language outcomes in biologically at-risk children. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 12, Rice, M. L., & Tomblin, B. (1999, June). Clinical indices of language impairment: Grammatical tense compared to conventional testing. Poster presented at the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, Madison, WI. Rice, M. L., Tweed, S., & Higheagle, B. (2000, June). GAP verbs of children with SLI: Longitudinal observations. Paper presented at the 21 st Annual Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders, Madison, WI.

88 Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (1996). Toward tense as a clinical marker of specific language impairment in English-speaking children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 39, Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2000, November). What she saying? SLI children's judgments of questions. Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston. Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (2001). Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation. Rice, M. L., Wexler, K., & Cleave, P. (1995). Specific language impairment as a period of extended optional infinitive. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, Rice, M. L., Wexler, K., & Hershberger, S. (1998). Tense over time: The longitudinal course of tense acquisition in children with specific language impairments. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41,

89 Rice, M. L., & Wexler, K. (1995). A phenotype of specific language impairment: Extended optional infinitives. In M. L. Rice (Ed.), Toward a genetics of language (pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Rice, M. L., Wexler, K., Marquis, J., & Hershberger, S. (2000). Acquisition of irregular past tense by children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43, Rice, M. L., Wexler, K., & Redmond, S. M. (1999). Grammaticality judgments of an extended optional infinitive grammar: Evidence from English-speaking children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, Shriberg, L. D., Tomblin, J. B., & McSweeny, J. L. (1999). Prevalence of speech delay in 6-year-old children and comorbidity with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42,

90 Tager-Flusberg, H., & Cooper, J. (1999). Present and future possibilities for defining a phenotype for specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, Tomblin, J. B., Records, N. L., Buckwalter, P., Zhang, Z., Smith, E., & O'Brien, M. (1997). Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 40, Watkins, R. V., Rice, M. L., & Moltz, C. C. (1993). Verb use by language- impaired and normally developing children. First Language, 13, Wexler, K. (1994). Optional infinitives, head movement and the economy of derivations. In D. Lightfoot & N. Hornstein (Eds.), Verb movement. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

91 Wexler, K. (in press). Lenneberg's dream: Learning normal language development, and specific language impairment. To appear in Y. Levy & J. Schaeffer (Eds.), Language competence across populations: Toward a definition of SLI. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Zhang, S., & Tomblin, J. B. (2000). The association of intervention receipt with speech-language profiles and social-demographic variables. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 9,


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