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31-07-2012 | Neurology | Article

Narrative skills track cognition in children with language impairments


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children with specific language impairment (SLI) show poor general narrative skills alongside deficits in verbal working memory and sustained auditory attention relative to children with typical development, research shows.

Notably though, the children's performance was dependent on the narrative task used, which in turn correlated with specific cognitive skills.

Study co-author Iris Duinmeijer (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) and colleagues say the findings have important implications for the methodology of future trials, which should report the narrative task used, as well as for education.

"Examining the literature on narratives, it is striking how many different tasks are used to measure narrative ability," the researchers comment.

In the current study, they compared a story retelling task (The Bus Story) and a story generation task (The Frog Story) in a group of 34 children with SLI as well as in 38 children with typical development from the same age range.

In addition to the two narrative tasks, children underwent tests for sustained auditory attention and verbal working memory.

Analyzing the entire group, Duinmeijer et al found that the children with SLI had significantly lower scores than the typically developed children on several narrative measures as well as on sustained auditory attention and verbal working memory.

In terms of the individual children's (intra-subject) performance, comparison of the scores on the two narrative tasks showed a contrast between the tasks on several narrative measures.

Correlational analyzes showed that, on the level of plot structure, the story generation task correlated with sustained auditory attention, while the story retelling task correlated with word list recall. On the other hand, mean length of utterance correlated with digit span but not with sustained auditory attention.

Discussing the findings, Duinmeijer et al comment: "The fact that different narrative tasks generate different scores is highly important for performing diagnostics in a clinical setting.

"Different narrative tasks may ideally be used as complementary tools and clinicians should be aware that choosing a particular narrative task may affect the outcomes."

The findings are published in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Andrew Czyzewski, MedWire Reporter

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