For the first time, a new study has looked into how language impairments affect a child's ability to understand and retell a script-based story.
When we experience an event frequently, for example going to a restaurant, we remember the kinds of activities that are part of that event. This is called a 'script' and many researchers believe that we store information in our brain as scripts. So if you are listening to a story that takes place at a restaurant and you have been to a restaurant before, you would expect characters in the story to order food, eat food, and pay for their meal.
But how do you understand the story when you don't even know the scripts?
For this study, involving a University of Alberta researcher, the examiner read a script-based story (about two children who go to a restaurant with their mother) to 44 eight-year-old children with and without language impairments. Once the story was finished, the children were asked to tell the story back to the examiner. The children with language impairments faired very poorly when trying to recall story details.
It was found that the children with language impairments often were only able to retell one key piece of information related to the story, a very surprising result as research on children without language impairments shows children as young as three-years-old can comprehend and retell basic scripts.
"This research indicates that we need to talk more with our children about what we are doing in daily situations because children with language impairments often need more experiences before they will understand and remember scripts," says University of Alberta researcher Denyse Hayward. "When reading stories to children, it is important to discover if the child understands the script component, and if not then discuss and describe that for the child. This will lead to not only better understanding of stories, but greater enjoyment of stories."
This research appears in August 2007 American Journal of Speech Language Pathology.