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Make a detailed study on language disorders and the problems associated with it
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The first session on Language disorders brought home to me how many of my daily activities depend on communication and language (Dockrell, 1999), how much I take for granted my ability to communicate. It was quite difficult to imagine my life without the ability to make myself understood to people.
I could only try to imagine the life of a child with language disorders and how difficult and frustrating it must be to struggle to make oneself understood to people many times in a day. This must be especially difficult for children who are highly dependent on people who care for them for everything from their basic necessities and every day routine. This insight brought home to me the importance of the work I have chosen and the difference it would make to the lives of the children I will be working with.
Language and Communication development
My first class about language and communication development motivated me to speak to my mother about my infancy years and when I first started to speak. My mother was quite surprised to hear my questions and very happy to re-live those days of early motherhood and the joy of hearing her child speak for the first time.
From the literature I understood that language 'comprehension,' is not a simple single skill – to actually comprehend spoken language involves a multi stage process which starts from the reception of a sound stimulus at the ears and involves the ability to classify the speech sounds and relate them to a mental dictionary, to interpret the words heard using the order in which they are spoken and the tonal inflections, to relate what is heard to the social and psychological context and ultimately choose from multiple possible meanings to the correct one meant by the speaker (Bishop, 1997).
I understand that language disorders in children could arise from a problem at any stage in the above multi stage process and as an educator I would need to identify the correct stage where a child has a problem in language and communication.
Context of language disorders
From a reading of the literature about theories of Specific Language Disorder (SLI), I find that SLI theories are divided into two groups. One group maintains that the language deficiency arises from delay in maturation process and the other group maintains that language deficiency is due to problems in specific cognitive-linguistic processes. (Schwartz, 2008)
As I understand it, the problem in accepting either school of theories is that they do not explain the whole range of problems that one sees in children with language disorders when dealing with them in practice. What the reading of literature helped me to conclude was that these theories have come to a conclusion that children with Specific Language Disorder have deficiencies in speech perception, deficiencies in working memory and problems with attention and executive functions (Schwartz, 2008).
I expect this understanding to be very helpful to me when practising my work with children with language disorders as it breaks down the different problem areas that I should assess for deciding on the strategy for intervention and progress.
Models of language acquisition
I found it quite interesting to learn that there are around 7000 languages spoken in the world in the year 2009 (Lewis, 2013) and even more interesting to learn that children who learn different languages are seen to follow the same stages of language acquisition (Berman, 2004)
A look into the literature surrounding various of language acquisition brought me into contact the nativist theory, among them the Universal Grammar (UG) theory of Noam Chomsky as well as the contrasting child usage theory which is based on empirical evidence. Nativists claim that children are born with a detailed and innately specified representation of a grammar which determines the universal grammar of a natural language (Chomsky, 1981). The empiricists contest this view of the nativists and claim that children do not possess natural linguistic skills at birth, but acquire them through everyday usage data after birth as part of their learning process (Barbara C Scholtz, 2002) However the exact details of this acquisition is not explained by these theorists.
Currently, computational models are being used as tools for investigating theories of language acquisition.Computational models use a detailed specification of the properties of the input data that the language learner receives and the mechanisms for processing the data. (Alishahi, 2011)The advantages that I found with computational models are that they are more transparent, they have explicit assumptions, controlled input, observable behaviour and testable predictions. (Alishahi, 2011) I understand that conclusions from computational models however need to be drawn with care.
Language development in the school years
Literacy is one of the main skills being taught to a child in the school years. Language and communication skills have become vital for survival in today's society and this is reflected in the importance given to language development of children in the educational process. The language development of children in school years is extensively tested in today's educational system.
Assessing the language development of a child at school is done by comparing the child's language development with those of other children of the same age. One method is by collecting a speech sample of the individual child and coding it using a code that has been normalized (Hoff, 2012). The other method is to use many of the standardized tests that have been developed for this purpose. (Hoff, 2012)
Language acquisition of children in schools years has been linked to various factors including socio-economic factors, education level of the parents and cultural and ethnic background of the student, in addition to the developmental stage and intelligence of the student.
As an educator, I forsee the need to be sensitive to the socio-economic and cultural background of my students and to supplement the disadvantages of their background through the proper lesson planning and differentiation of lessons for students at various stages of language development.