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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Study of the immediate changes in language performance of preschool moderately retarded children after participation in oral language training. Bembridge, Wayne Richard


Retardation of language development or articulatory proficiency is characteristic of children with specific organic or intellectual deficits. It is recognized that the moderately retarded preschool youngster is especially susceptible to delays in language acquisition probably as a concomitant attribute of general intellectual deficiency. The literature of learning and child development documents and highlights the significant growth experienced by the infant and preschool youngster long before he first enters school. The advent of preschool educational opportunities for exceptional children can be expected to prevent many of the debilitating results associated with general intellectual mental retardation. Research has demonstrated that much is to be gained through early childhood compensatory education. The evidence gained from programs of intervention in the area of language has effectively shown that intensive stimulation in school aged mildly and moderately retarded children results in gains in language performance. Similarly, investigations of language improvement in younger deprived children have had positive results. Consequently, two important facts are to be recognized: (a) It is possible to effect positive change in language ability of young children whose intellectual functioning is assumed capable of normalcy. (b) It is possible to effect positive change in language ability of older children whose intellectual capacities have been limited by organic or environmental factors. These lead to an important question, the subject of the research reported herein. Can language proficiency be effectively improved in moderately retarded preschool aged children? From the thirty-two children comprising the population of the preschool for the retarded at the Research Unit for Exceptional Children, University of British Columbia, sixteen children were selected to form the experimental and control groups in a sixteen week project studying the language performance of the children. The sixteen children were matched in pairs on the basis of age in months, length in preschool experience, raw score on the PPVT, and raw score on a modified Stanford Binet. Matched pairs were used to insure that the experimental and control groups were as nearly equivalent at the outset as possible. For sixteen weeks the experimental group participated for thirty minutes per day in a group oral language training program. For an equal period of time the control group participated in a non-directive program in which language activities were correlated with motor, sensory, and social activities. During posttesting sessions all the children were tested using the same, or equivalent forms of the pretest instruments. The difference between pretest to posttest events was considered to be a measure of change in language performance. Statistical analysis of these data was applied to determine significance. At the conclusion of the study the children of the experimental group scored significantly better than the children of the control group on all variables. Pretest to posttest experimental group gain was significant, while the same measure for the control group evidenced no measurable difference. While intergroup differences at the beginning of the study were negligible, the between-group differences after participation in oral language training were demonstrably significant. There were, therefore, important gains made by the experimental group, while no real gains were evidenced by the control group. It seems reasonable to assume from the data analyses that programed intervention in the language domain is both feasible and desirable for moderately retarded preschool children. The immediate effects of language training however, leave other questions unanswered and in want of further investigation. Questions regarding lasting effects of language intervention, as well as the degree of effective facilitation in learning of other skills as a result of language training, need investigation. It has been, however, demonstrated that the first step, that of immediate and positive change in language performance, can be facilitated by direct intervention in the language training of moderately retarded children.

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