Specific Language Impairment Project

Teachers need greater awareness of language disorders
by Lucy Henry and David Messer

Greater awareness of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), and in particular ‘specific language impairment’ (SLI), is essential to ensure better outcomes for the 3-6 per cent of these school children in the UK.  Children with SLI have difficulties with most or all aspects of language including grammar, vocabulary and literacy as well as with short term memory.

Our research has also found that children with SLI have additional problems with higher order thinking skills. These skills allow us to think, plan, remember and generate new ideas when we deal with new information.  They are crucial in all learning tasks, so it is important for parents and teachers to look out for potential difficulties.

Childhood is a time of development so all children struggle with some things, but the following tips might be helpful if you have noticed your child has difficulties compared to children of a similar age:

  • Difficulty remembering new information while completing schoolwork.  Could the key information be written down or illustrated on a flash card and placed immediately next to your child?
  • Often, new learning involves realising that there is a more sophisticated way of viewing things – your child may have difficulty ‘forgetting’ the simpler viewpoint.  Again, perhaps a flashcard with the old ‘rule’ and the new ‘exception’ might act as a visual reminder.
  • Your child finds it difficult to plan his or her schoolwork and often seems in a muddle.  Clear, simple and easily seen timetables with checklists: illustrations rather than words might work well.
  • Difficulties in generating new ideas (e.g. creative writing).  Stick closely to areas your child knows really well (e.g. hobbies or interests): this makes writing much easier.

The important message is that children with SLI may need extra support with higher order thinking skills, over and above their language difficulties, to succeed with new learning.

Executive functioning in children and young people with specific language impairment
Lucy A. Henry, David J. Messer & Gilly Nash

Executive Functioning and SLI (149.5 KiB, 6,215 hits)