Exploring the emergent literacy needs of preschoolers with language impairments
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Current research indicates the need to identify and support children at-risk for reading difficulties as early as possible. Children with language impairments are one group of children who have been shown to be at-risk for literacy problems. Their difficulties likely stem from the challenges they tend to experience with acquiring emergent literacy skills as preschoolers. Very little empirical work has been done with preschoolers with language impairments to explore the nature of their emergent literacy development or their response to interventions which target emergent literacy skills. In the present study, 55 preschoolers with language impairments were recruited from a speech and language centre in Southern Ontario. The nature of the relationship between children's early language and literacy skills was explored using measures of their written language awareness, phonological awareness and oral language abilities, in an attempt to better understand how to conceptualize their emergent literacy abilities. Furthermore, a between-subjects design was used to compare two language interventions: an experimental emergent literacy intervention and a standard intervention based on traditional models of speech and language therapy. Results indicated that preschooler's emergent literacy abilities can be understood as a broad, multi-dimensional construct consisting of three separate but interrelated components: written language awareness, phonological awareness, and oral language. The emergent literacy-enhanced intervention was generally superior to the standard language intervention in improving children's skills in written language awareness, and children with the most severe impairments seemed to benefit the most from the experimental intervention. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as areas for future research are discussed. .