Understanding Conservation Delays in Children With Specific Language Impairment: Task Representations Revealed in Speech and Gesture Purpose The authors investigated mental representations of Piagetian conservation tasks in children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing peers. Children with SLI have normal nonverbal intelligence; however, they exhibit difficulties in Piagetian conservation tasks. The authors tested the hypothesis that conservation difficulties may be due to the degree ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2006
Understanding Conservation Delays in Children With Specific Language Impairment: Task Representations Revealed in Speech and Gesture
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego
  • Martha W. Alibali
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Contact author: Elina Mainela-Arnold, who is now at the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 105 Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail: ezm3@psu.edu.
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 2006
Understanding Conservation Delays in Children With Specific Language Impairment: Task Representations Revealed in Speech and Gesture
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2006, Vol. 49, 1267-1279. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/091)
History: Received April 19, 2005 , Revised February 9, 2006 , Accepted April 20, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2006, Vol. 49, 1267-1279. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/091)
History: Received April 19, 2005; Revised February 9, 2006; Accepted April 20, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 12

Purpose The authors investigated mental representations of Piagetian conservation tasks in children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing peers. Children with SLI have normal nonverbal intelligence; however, they exhibit difficulties in Piagetian conservation tasks. The authors tested the hypothesis that conservation difficulties may be due to the degree to which children with SLI rely on external perceptual features of the task as opposed to internal cognitive knowledge about transformation.

Method Twenty-nine children participated, 12 children with SLI (ages 7;0–10;5) and 17 typically developing peers (ages 5;4–10;9) who were matched either on chronological age (CA) task or on judgments on the conservation task (conservation matched [CM]). Children solved conservation tasks and then explained their reasoning. Explanations produced in speech and gesture were analyzed.

Results In speech, children in the SLI group expressed proportionately fewer internal explanations than the CA group, but a similar proportion of internal explanations as compared with the younger CM group. In gesture, children with SLI did not differ from either CA or CM children.

Conclusions Children with SLI have weak internal representations of the concept of conservation, similar to those of younger children. Conservation representations appear to be closely related to language skills and verbal working memory.

Acknowledgments
Research reported in this article was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R01 DC 5650-01, Julia Evans, principal investigator), by a grant from the Spencer Foundation (S133-DK59, Julia Evans and Martha Alibali, co-principal investigators), and by a core grant to the Waisman Center from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P30 HD03352). We thank Lisbeth Heilmann and Kristin Ryan for their assistance in collecting the data, and Miggie Manhei Shum for her assistance in coding the data. Finally, we are most grateful to the parents and children who participated in the study.
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