Children with language impairment (LI) have often been identified as having social communication breakdowns. A number of these problems are likely the result of deficits in emotional competence. This thesis examines a social communication intervention designed to target the emotional competence of children with LI. Three elementary school-aged children with LI were recruited to receive twenty, 20-minute intervention sessions over the course of four months. Each intervention session involved a combination of activities targeting emotion recognition and emotion inferencing using story retell, story exploration, story enactment, perspectives charts, journal entries, emotion labeling, and personalization. These activities revolved around Mercer Mayer's A Boy, A Dog, and A Frog (1967) wordless picture book series. These books were used because of their age-appropriate subject matter and clear, simple depictions of character actions and facial expressions. To analyze the effectiveness of this intervention package in improving emotional competence, the number of emotion-based words belonging to the emotional categories of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust that were produced each session was counted. The percentage of appropriate usage was calculated to represent how often the participants used each emotion-based word in a semantically correct manner. Finally, emotion word productions that did not match the intended target word were analyzed for valence agreement. Results were highly variable but all three participants demonstrated improvements in the percentage of accurate productions in at least one emotional category. Although all three participants usually used words of a positive valence in an appropriate manner, inappropriate uses were also observed. When actual emotion-word productions mismatched the intended emotions, all three participants produced low valence agreement for words of positive valence and high valence agreement for words of negative valence. Further research is warranted but results suggested that this particular social communication intervention was effective in improving the production of specific emotion words by children with LI.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





language impairment, school-age children, emotional competence, social competence, social communication intervention, emotion expression, emotion-based words