Research has shown that children with Language Impairment (LI) struggle with social communication skills in addition to their characteristic syntactic difficulties. This pilot study analyzed the potential change in grammatical complexity in narratives of five children with LI when enrolled in a social communication intervention. The intervention itself focused on teaching emotion understanding by reading and reenacting children’s stories and journaling. Grammatical limitations were indirectly addressed by clinician modeling of complex forms during the intervention sessions. Each child’s productions were assessed and analyzed for grammatical complexity during retelling a book in the Mercer Mayer “a boy, a dog, and a frog” series. The children performed this task once a week during the course of the intervention. Specific measures used included the average length of terminable unit (T-unit) and the number of subordinate clauses used in each narrative. Three students’ productions remained steady throughout the course of the interventions; their grammatical complexity neither increased nor decreased. One student’s production showed a clear decrease in complexity but was explained by an obvious and arguably more creative change in her language output. One student’s grammatical complexity increased throughout the sessions as indicated by a steady increase in the average length of T-unit. Thus, the results of this study were equivocal. There were several limitations, however, that might be addressed in future intervention studies.



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David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



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