Children's Responses to Grammatically Complete and Incomplete Prompts to Imitate
Bredin-Oja, Shelley Laine
University of Kansas
Hearing and Speech
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Purpose: Various language intervention programs instruct clinicians and parents of children with language learning difficulty to expand their child's utterance by adding one or two words. This often results in a telegraphic utterance, one that is devoid of function words and inflectional endings. Other programs not only advocate the use of telegraphic models but explicitly prompt the child to produce a grammatically incomplete, and therefore, incorrect utterance. These programs make the assumption that prompts to imitate telegraphic models aid in production by making a targeted language goal easier for the child to imitate. The purpose of this investigation is to determine if children in the early stage of combining words are more likely to respond to elicited imitation prompts that are telegraphic than to elicited imitation prompts that are grammatically complete. Method: Five children between the ages of 30-51 months with expressive language delay participated in a single-case alternating treatment design with fourteen sessions evenly split between a grammatical and a telegraphic condition. Children were given 15 elicitive prompts to imitate a semantic relation that was either grammatically complete (e.g., Say the frog is jumping) or telegraphic (e.g., Say duck walking). Children's responses to the elicitive prompts that contained a semantic relation or a semantic relation with a function word were analyzed separately using a randomization test. Results: No differences between conditions were found for the number of responses that contained a semantic relation. Children responded to prompts that were grammatically complete as frequently as to prompts that were telegraphic. In contrast, there was a statistically significant difference for the inclusion of a function word. Three of the five children were more likely to include a function word in their response when the elicitive prompt was grammatical. Two children did not include a function word in either condition. Conclusion: Reducing an elicitive prompt to imitate to the point that it is no longer grammatical does not offer any advantage as a language intervention technique. Children are just as likely to respond to a grammatically complete elicitive prompt. Further, including function words encourages children, who are developmentally ready, to imitate them.
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