Using Software to Deliver Language Intervention in Inclusionary Settings

Using Software to Deliver Language Intervention in Inclusionary Settings

Mary Sweig Wilson (Laureate Learning Systems, Inc., USA) and Jeffrey Pascoe (Laureate Learning Systems, Inc., USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-817-3.ch009
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Abstract

Language intervention focusing on syntax is an essential component of programs designed to meet the educational needs of children with language disabilities as it provides a foundation for improved communication and literacy. Yet there are challenges to providing individualized syntax intervention on a daily basis in inclusionary settings. The use of assistive technology in the form of language intervention software provides one means to address these challenges. This chapter describes the background, rationale, and use of software designed to provide receptive syntax intervention to build sentence comprehension and use in pre-school and elementary children with disabilities. The software is also appropriate for at-risk students in districts providing early intervening services in a response to intervention model as well as English language learners. Included is an overview of advances in linguistic theory and research that have dramatically increased our understanding of language and how it is acquired by typically and atypically developing children, and which informed the curricular design of the software described. The results of field-testing under naturalistic conditions in classrooms, where regular use of the software was associated with accelerated language development, are also reviewed.
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Background

Advances in linguistic theory and psycholinguistic research over the past quarter century have dramatically increased our understanding of language and how it is acquired by typically and atypically developing children. Children all over the world learning any one of thousands of different languages do so in a remarkably similar manner. First words emerge, word combinations occur, and syntax is mastered at about the same age regardless of the language or culture. What exactly is the nature of the human biological endowment that enables very young children to acquire their first language on such a strikingly consistent timetable? Since its inception (Chomsky, 1955; 1957), generative grammar theory has tried to explain this phenomenon (see Chomsky, 2004 for a brief review). A fundamental assertion emerging from this work is that the rapidity and uniformity of first language acquisition is possible because human infants are born with an innate language faculty (Universal Grammar) that drives and shapes the course of language development (Hauser, Chomsky, & Fitch, 2002). Although this premise was in doubt fifty years ago, today it is accepted with discussion centered only on the precise nature of this innate endowment (Boeckx & Piattelli-Palmarini, 2005; Jenkins, 2004; Laka, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Determiners: This syntactic category is associated with Nouns and is so-called because Determiners specify (or determine) that to which a Noun expression refers. Determiners include, for example, articles and pronouns.

Lexical Categories: This part of the lexicon includes words that serve as Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives.

Functional Categories: This part of the lexicon includes words and forms that serve essentially grammatical functions, such as Determiners, Tense, Complementizers.

Tense: This syntactic category is associated with Verbs and refers to elements that inflect Verbs for tense and agreement. Tense includes, for example, the regular past tense -ed, auxiliary be, and third person singular -s.

Universal Grammar: Contemporary linguistic theory describes Universal Grammar as consisting of a series of principles that govern the forms of that human language, and a set of parameters that vary across languages in binary fashion. All human languages have these principles and parameters in common.

Complementizers: This syntactic category includes words such as that and which when they are used to introduce and characterize complement clauses in various ways, as well as a range of operations involved in the formation of questions.

Optimized Intervention: This is a methodology developed to present language intervention curricula in a highly individualized and optimally efficient manner by automatically selecting appropriate training material and adjusting instructional support in relation to emerging skills and competencies.

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