Majorano, M., & Lavelli, M. (2015). The use of sophisticated words with children with specific language impairment during shared book reading. Journal of Communication Disorders, 53,1-16. doi:10.1016/j.jcomdis.2014.10.001
Abstract. In the context of the use of sophisticated (i.e., low-frequency) words with children with specific language impairment (SLI), the present study investigates the relationship between maternal interactive support for meaning and both conversational responsiveness and lexical development of children with SLI. Fifteen Italian-speaking children with SLI (age range: 3;4–5;6) and two groups of typically developing children – 15 chronological age (CA)-matched (3;8–5;8) and 15 language age (LA)-matched (1;10–3;5) – were videotaped during shared book reading with their mothers. Maternal utterances which included or were related to a sophisticated word were coded on the basis of informativeness and scaffolding provided; child utterances were coded for complexity. In addition, child’s lexical development was assessed three months later. Mothers of children with SLI produced a higher percentage of directly informative utterances with gestural scaffolding than did mothers of CA-matched children, and only in the SLI group this kind of utterances were significantly followed by child’s extended utterances. Child’s lexical development (production) was related to direct maternal informativeness in both the SLI- and CA-matched groups, and to gestural scaffolding only in the SLI group. On the whole, these findings suggest that mothers of children with SLI attune their language to their children’s linguistic limitations and that the gestural quality of the interactive scaffolding is related to these children’s conversational participation and their level of lexical progress.