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Communicative abilities in children between 16 and 22 months Sing, Tracey Michelle

Abstract

The current study compares the communicative abilities of children between 16 to 22 months who are considered to be at-risk or not at-risk for language impairment due to family history. Examining the nonverbal and verbal communicative abilities of young children may help identify a child with possible language impairment even before a child begins to communicate using words. Early identification is desirable because it permits early intervention, which is known to lessen problems (academic, behavioural, etc.) associated with language impairment. Communicative acts were transcribed from audiotapes and videotapes of the subjects with their caregiver(s) and an experimenter during a structured interaction. Communicative behaviours were coded and analyzed for type and frequency of communicative act, type and frequency of mode of communication, and whether the act was an initiation or a response. Rate of communication was also calculated. Results indicate that communicative abilities were similar for subjects identified at-risk for language impairment due to positive family history and subjects without family history. The majority of communicative acts across all subjects were directive in type. Assertions were also common, often expressed by vocalization without accompanying gestures. Results indicate that the communicative abilities were different for subjects identified at-risk due to low scores on number of spontaneous words or rate of communication in communicative acts per minute and subjects not identified as at-risk on these two measures. Children with more spontaneous words and higher rates of communication had higher language comprehension scores, language production scores, total communicative acts, and assertive types of communicative act than children who scored low on either of these two measures. Age correlated with several measures, including number of spontaneous words and combined words and gestures. The results are consistent with reports that children who are language impaired or who are late talkers have difficulty making assertions, both verbally and nonverbally. Due to the small sample size of this study, additional research is needed to advance us further toward describing the communicative abilities of toddlers in order to identify children who may be at risk for language impairment.

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