Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is diagnosed in children who exhibit significant language deficits despite adequate educational opportunity and normal non-verbal intelligence. Children with SLI lag behind their peers in language production and language comprehension, which contributes to later learning and reading disabilities in school. These children have a deficit in processing brief and/or rapidly- changing auditory information, and/or in remembering the temporal order of auditory information. Some children with SLI have difficulty reporting the order of two sounds when these sounds are brief in duration and presented rapidly while some children have poor short-term memory for speech sounds.
Children may manifest receptive difficulties, that is, problems understanding language, or expressive difficulties, involving use of language. Children with SLI differ in the degree to which they have problems articulating speech sounds, expressing themselves verbally and comprehending the speech of others. Accordingly SLI is broadly classified into three subtypes; articulation disorder, expressive language disorder and mixed expressive and receptive language disorder.
A diagnosis is made after ruling out the presence of other conditions such as mental retardation, autism, hearing loss, cleft palate and neurological disorders which may give rise to language impairments (e.g. cerebral palsy). A detailed evaluation of the components of speech and language development will include analysis of errors in grammatical and syntactic development (e.g., correct verb tense, word order and sentence structure), semantic development (e.g., vocabulary knowledge) and phonological development (e.g., phonological awareness, or awareness of sounds in spoken language). Professionals can usually arrive at a diagnosis by age five and hence provide the child with an early intervention program that can be incorporated into school and home.
The adults interacting with the child must speak clearly, use a simplified language and use visual support where this is possible.Some preschool programs are designed to enrich the language development of students with disabilities. This classroom may include normally-developing children who will act unknowingly as models. The focus of class activities may be role-playing, sharing time, or hands-on lessons with new, interesting vocabulary. This kind of preschool will encourage interaction between children, and will build rich layers of language experience. It may even include techniques from speech pathology that solicit from children the kinds of practice they need to build their language skills
A comprehensive reading curriculum that provides explicit, systematic instruction in the abilities known to be important in reading-phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension-benefits all children, including those with language problems
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