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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Visual and verbal coding strategies in children with specific language impairment Conner, Skye A.


A substantial body of research points to the possibility that deficits in verbal memory processes may contribute to the atypical language development of children with specific language impairment (SLI). The current study used a short-term memory task to explore children's use of visual and verbal coding strategies to remember pictures of objects. Participants were 39 children, 13 children with SLI and two normal language control groups of 13 children each, one matched by age (AM) and one by language level (LM) with the SLI children. Subjects performed a memory task in which they were briefly presented with a target picture and then selected its match from an array of three pictures in which the target was either an identical match (identity condition), a basic level category match (category condition), or a visual match (shape condition). Children with SLI showed a pattern of a larger reaction time difference between the category and identity conditions than their AM peers. If it is true that the category condition rewards verbal coding, then relatively slower performance on this condition suggests that the SLI children may not be relying on verbal codes to the same degree as the AM children. A deficit in using verbal codes could explain the learning difficulties experienced by children with language impairment, both in the domain of language and more generally.

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