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Language and Socioeconomic Disadvantage, From Research to Practice. Briefing Paper, December 2014, Professor Penny Roy City University London. Professor Shula Chiat City University London, Professor Barbara Dodd City University London. Roy Chiat Dodd Language and SES in pre schoolers, Q What is the nature of language problems found in young children from socioeconomically. disadvantaged areas To what extent are they due to limitations in the child s language environment. or inherent biologically based language impairment Or are both external and internal factors. involved Does it matter what lies behind these early language difficulties What are the implications. for interventions with preschoolers with poor language from low SES groups. Children from low socioeconomic SES backgrounds are at disproportionate risk of language. delay Previous research has suggested that basic language skills affected in language. impairment may not be affected by SES These skills may therefore help to distinguish children. with language impairment from those with poor language due to limitations of their language. environment The distinction is important since children with language impairment require. different types of intervention from disadvantaged children whose inherent capacity for. language is intact In this Briefing Paper we report findings from our research funded by the. Nuffield Foundation which aimed to tease apart external and internal factors involved in. language delay in socioeconomically disadvantaged preschoolers using measures known to. be more or less socially biased, Our samples comprised 208 preschoolers from Low SES neighbourhoods and 168 from Mid.
high SES neighbourhoods aged 3 5 years with English as their first language The youngest. age group 3 4 were followed up 18 months later An age matched Clinic sample of 160. children acted as an additional comparison group for the Low SES sample Our findings reveal. the extent to which very basic early developing language and speech skills may be affected in. preschool children from socio economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods The outcomes. of our study inform interventions and underscore the need for very early intervention prior. to school entry Furthermore they highlight a need for continuing support throughout the. school years if children are to access education effectively. Summary and implications, The increased risk of early language problems for children growing up in socioeconomically disadvantaged. families is well documented Given the key role of oral language in acquiring literacy and accessing the school. curriculum early identification of deficits and appropriate targeted and timely intervention are crucial Our. study confirmed and added to existing evidence revealing that increased risk for children in Low SES families. extends to fundamental language skills thought to be relatively free of socioeconomic effects In summary. An unexpectedly high proportion of children from Low SES neighbourhoods entered preschool. provision without the most basic speech language and attentional skills expected to be in place at. A higher than expected proportion had clinically significant language problems with profiles. comparable to children with language impairment in our Clinic sample. Most of these children with clinically significant problems had not been referred to speech and. language therapy SLT services, Roy Chiat Dodd Language and SES in pre schoolers. In the Low SES sample mother s employment status was more significant than educational. qualifications of primary carer for language performance favouring children whose mothers were. Children of employed mothers were more likely to be regular attenders at nursery. Regular attenders had significantly higher scores than poor attenders with attendance being more. significant for language outcomes than mother s employment status. The impact of nursery attendance together with evidence of the performance gap narrowing with. age indicated that for some at least poor performance was due to delay. Our findings cast new light on language difficulties in low SES communities and highlight the need for. early interventions to address these They are relevant to policy makers to the training and practice. of professionals concerned with reducing the SES gap and to those working with young children and. parents in socially disadvantaged areas, Policy makers implications for support services. Our evidence reveals the need for, High quality preschool care. Extension of provision to two year olds, Support for parents.
o to facilitate children s regular attendance at preschool. o to find employment, Prevention through primary intervention by health visitors and professionals working with parents. and their babies and toddlers 0 2 years, Preschool early years staff implications for training and practice. Our evidence makes a case for, Training of preschool providers to recognise the presence nature and significance of language. problems and how best to respond and intervene, Use of our standardised measures for the early identification of the presence and nature of. problems these measures are suitable for administration by staff working in EYFS 3 5 years. including those concerned with the welfare of disadvantaged children with minimal training. Education and clinical services implications for delivery. Our study reinforces, The need for qualified preschool staff.
The potential role of teaching assistants in delivering programmes. Our study raises questions about, The best service provision model for joined up working between educational and SLT services to. address the scale of the problems we have identified. The resources needed to implement this model, Roy Chiat Dodd Language and SES in pre schoolers. The study Language difficulties and social disadvantage. Background, The prevalence and risks of language difficulties in children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are now. well established as are the consequences for children s literacy development educational attainment social. and emotional well being employment opportunities and life chances Indeed a recent government. commissioned review of services for children with speech language and communication needs Bercow. 2008 highlighted the scale and seriousness of language difficulties associated with low socioeconomic status. and gave rise to an All Party Parliamentary Group that tackled this specific issue and produced a further. report on the links between speech language and communication needs and social disadvantage February. 2013 But while language difficulties associated with social disadvantage have gained increasing attention and. raised increasing concern the causes and nature of these difficulties remain unclear As the All Party. Parliamentary Group report points out p 7 they may be due to neurodevelopmental problems or other. impairments They may also however be due to reduced developmental opportunities limiting the child s. learning of language If we are to provide effective and optimally timed support for these children s language. development we need to understand the nature and course of their difficulties see Figure 1 A research. study was set up to investigate what underlies poor language performance in socially disadvantaged children. led by Professor Penny Roy together with Professor Shula Chiat and Professor Barbara Dodd at City. University London and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Language impairment, Not due to environmental factors. Language disadvantage, Due to environmental factors.
Figure 1 Potential sources of language difficulties in children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Core vs standard language measures, Previous research has suggested that standard assessments of language used to identify language difficulties. are socially biased because they benefit from experiences of language and language use that are less available. to children living with social disadvantage than their more privileged peers Poor performance on such. assessments may therefore be due to limitations in children s language environments and experience rather. than inherent impairments in acquiring language In contrast to standard language assessments measures of. core language target basic language abilities and knowledge which are known to be affected in children with. language impairment but are less dependent on language exposure and experience Many studies have. confirmed that these measures are free or relatively free of socioeconomic effects Based on these findings. we hypothesised that measures of core language would help to distinguish children with core language. impairments from those with limited language due to limited language environments and experience. Roy Chiat Dodd Language and SES in pre schoolers, Standard language assessments test children s receptive and expressive language their understanding and. production of words and sentences Children can only understand and produce words that they have heard. so vocabulary knowledge is highly dependent on experience Receptive language is typically tested by asking. children to point to pictures that correspond to words or sentences they hear see Figure 2 for an example. Such a task requires understanding of the sentence but also careful attention to the sentence and retention. of its content scanning of the pictures which typically differ from each other by a small detail critical for. correct picture selection and matching of word sentence and picture These are metalinguistic skills which. go beyond basic understanding of the sentence though this is also necessary for successful completion of. Point to the big dog then point to the little monkey Go. Figure 2 Example from Concepts and Following Directions subtest of the Clinical Evaluation of Language. Fundamentals, In contrast to standard assessments core language assessments test basic recognition and production of. speech patterns word forms and sentence structures which require exposure to everyday language but do. not rely on rich and varied experience of language use For example repeating a word such as ladder or. dinosaur requires children to recognise and produce speech patterns of English to which they have almost. certainly been exposed repeating a nonword such as daller or sinodaur relies on skills in processing new. speech patterns since children have not previously encountered these forms In learning a new word for. example a new animal name children rely on the same speech processing skills but must further link the. new word form to a meaning e g the particular type of animal Going beyond the single word level a task. in which children are asked to repeat a sentence draws on their knowledge of the way words are put together. in sentences morphosyntax as well as the words themselves and makes demands on children s attention. and memory In the case of simple sentences children must recognise the key or content words they must. also recognise the order of words and the function words determiners such as a the his their auxiliary. verbs such as is did don t will must and prepositions such as at from in on which indicate grammatical. categories and relations in the sentence as illustrated in the following example. See if you can copy what I say, The funny man put a dot on his nose. Function words, Content words, Figure 3 Example of content and function words in Sentence Imitation Test SIT.
Children with language impairment have difficulty with these basic core language tasks which have been put. forward as potential markers of language impairment Figure 4 summarises the differences between standard. and core language assessments, Roy Chiat Dodd Language and SES in pre schoolers. Standard measures Core measures, Sustained attention. Retention of information, Inferencing, MORE World knowledge LESS. Affected by SES, Figure 4 Differences between standard and core language assessments. Research study, Our research study set out to investigate what underlies poor language performance in socioeconomically.
disadvantaged children The main aim was to compare the distribution of performance on standard and core. language measures in preschool children living in an area of socioeconomic deprivation the Low SES sample. and a comparator sample of children from mid high SES backgrounds the Mid high SES sample Would the. Low SES group of children show better performance on core assessments than on standard assessments. which have produced disproportionate levels of poor performance in previous studies of children from low. SES backgrounds This would indicate that some children have intact basic language despite performing. poorly on language tests and that core language measures might help to distinguish children who have poor. language performance due to limited experience from those with language impairment potentially. exacerbated by limited experience We also investigated relations between low performance and clinical. referral to speech and language therapy SLT services in both SES samples and compared performance of. the Low SES sample with an age matched sample of clinically referred children the Clinic sample drawn. from an existing database Chiat Roy 2008, In this Briefing Paper we summarise the results of our study and discuss the implications for the nature of. language problems in socially disadvantaged children and the support needed to improve their language skills. from City Research Online may be freely distributed and linked to from other web pages Versions of research The version in City Research Online may differ from the final published version Users are advised to check the Permanent City Research Online URL above for the status of the paper Enquiries If you have any enquiries about any aspect of City Research Online or if you wish to make

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