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J Speech Hear Res. 1991 Dec;34(6):1299-307.

Social interactions of speech- and language-impaired children.

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  • 1Child Language Program, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045.


Social interactions among preschool children were classified into four groups according to language ability: normally developing English, specific language impairment (SLI), speech impairment (SI), and English as a second language (ESL). The children were observed in naturalistic classroom interactions on three occasions. Conversational turns were coded according to initiations and responses, and addressee. The results reveal differences across the groups of children. Normal language peers initiate interactions with each other and have a higher percentage of longer responses; normal language peers were the preferred addressee in peer initiations. In contrast, children with limited communication skills were more likely than their normal language peers to initiate with adults and to shorten their responses or use nonverbal responses. ESL children were the least likely to initiate interactions and were the most likely to be avoided as the recipient of an initiation. The findings are interpreted as evidence that preschool children are sensitive to relative communication skills and make adjustments in their social interactions accordingly. Multiple contributing factors are implicated, including intelligibility, limited linguistic flexibility, limited discourse skills, and self-consciousness about communicative competence.

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