The Impact of Attention Deficits on Response to Early Intervention for Language Impairment




Ohlenforst, Kristen Michelle

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Young children exhibiting language impairment (LI) evidence a wide variety of difficulties in problematic language, coordination, attention, perception, social skills, and emotional well-being. Such children are often vulnerable to a number of prevailing cognitive, academic, and social difficulties, this vulnerability begs the need for early intervention. Attention appears to be particularly variable in children with language impairment (Cantwell&Baker, 1991). Specifically, a large percentage of language impaired children have a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD; alternately, as many as 50% percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have an underlying oral language deficit (Cohen, Barwick, Horodezky, Vallance,&Im, 1998; Cohen, Davine, Horodezky, Lipsett,&Isaacson, 1993; Cohen et al., 1998; Gualtieri, Koriath, Van Bourgondien,&Saleeby, 1983). To date, however, there is a paucity of research investigating how attention deficits moderate the language-impaired child's response to intervention and remediation. The current study examines the impact of an experimental intervention aimed at the remediation of language, coordination, attention, and perception deficits in 20 children (ages 3-9) considered to be At Risk for Language-Learning Disorders. This study examines participants' responses over the 1st year of a 2-year explicit intervention integrating two explicit instruction methods (the Montessori Method and the Association Method). Response on all measures utilized was calculated utilizing the Reliable Change Index (RCI; Jacobson&Truax, 1991). Participants' response to intervention during the 1st year, as measured by language/vocabulary outcomes on the CELF-4, CELF-PS:2, EOWPVT, and ROWPVT, was shown to be relatively minimal. Contrary to expectation, attention deficits at baseline did not associate significantly and inversely with improvement in language/vocabulary scores. A secondary focus of this study examined participants' change in emotional and social functioning (as measured by the BASC TRS), as it related to language/vocabulary outcomes. Small cells sizes prohibited the majority of the proposed analyses, but frequency analyses and paired-samples t-tests revealed significant increases in Internalizing Problems, Anxiety, Depression, Withdrawal, and Aggression. Alternately, 56% of the participants exhibited significant improvement in Social Skills.

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