The Role of Language in Nonlinguistic Stimuli: Comparing Inhibition in Children With Language Impairment Purpose There is conflicting evidence regarding if and how a deficit in executive function may be associated with developmental language impairment (LI). Nonlinguistic stimuli are now frequently used when testing executive function to avoid a language confound. However, it is possible that increased stimulus processing demands for nonlinguistic stimuli may ... Research Article
Research Article  |   May 17, 2018
The Role of Language in Nonlinguistic Stimuli: Comparing Inhibition in Children With Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Hettie Roebuck
    Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Heidi Sindberg
    Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Susan Ellis Weismer
    Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 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 Hettie Roebuck: hroebuck@wisc.edu
  • Editor-in-Chief: Sean Redmond
    Editor-in-Chief: Sean Redmond×
  • Editor: Lisa Archibald
    Editor: Lisa Archibald×
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   May 17, 2018
The Role of Language in Nonlinguistic Stimuli: Comparing Inhibition in Children With Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, May 2018, Vol. 61, 1216-1225. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-17-0294
History: Received August 8, 2017 , Revised December 9, 2017 , Accepted January 30, 2018
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, May 2018, Vol. 61, 1216-1225. doi:10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-17-0294
History: Received August 8, 2017; Revised December 9, 2017; Accepted January 30, 2018

Purpose There is conflicting evidence regarding if and how a deficit in executive function may be associated with developmental language impairment (LI). Nonlinguistic stimuli are now frequently used when testing executive function to avoid a language confound. However, it is possible that increased stimulus processing demands for nonlinguistic stimuli may also compound the complexity of the relationship between executive function and LI. The current study examined whether variability across nonlinguistic auditory stimuli might differentially affect inhibition and whether performance differs between children with and without language difficulties.

Method Sixty children, aged 8–14 years, took part in the study: 20 typically developing children, 20 children with autism spectrum disorder, and 20 children with specific LI. For the purposes of assessing the role of language, children were further categorized based on language ability: 33 children with normal-language (NL) ability and 27 children with LI. Children completed a go/no-go task with 2 conditions comparing nonlinguistic auditory stimuli: 2 abstract sounds and 2 familiar sounds (duck quack and dog bark).

Results There was no significant difference for diagnostic category. However, there was a significant interaction between language ability and condition. There was no significant difference in the NL group performance in the abstract and familiar sound conditions. In contrast, the group with LI made significantly more errors in the abstract condition compared with the familiar condition. There was no significant difference in inhibition between the NL group and the group with LI in the familiar condition; however, the group with LI made significantly more errors than the NL group in the abstract condition.

Conclusions Caution is needed in stimuli selection when examining executive function skills because, although stimuli may be selected on the basis of being “nonlinguistic and auditory,” the type of stimuli chosen can differentially affect performance. The findings have implications for the interpretation of deficits in executive function as well as the selection of stimuli in future studies.

Acknowledgments
This study was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant R01 DC011750 (Ellis Weismer & Kaushanskaya, MPIs) and U54 HD090256 (Messing, PI) core grant support to the Waisman Center. We would also like to thank the children and families who participated in this study.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access