Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech and Hearing Science

Major Professor

Lori A. Swanson

Committee Members

Peter Flipsen, Jr. Ann Michael, Ilsa Schwarz, Tara Wass


Ten children with language-learning impairment (LLI, M = 11;2 years) were compared to chronological age- (CA, M = 11;2 years) and language age- (LA, M = 8;4 years) matched peers to examine presentation condition effects on level of syntactic complexity and number of story grammar components recalled for stories that were at or below the children’s reading level. Children were also compared on their ability to correctly answer information, value, and logical inferencing questions based on the stories. In addition, verbal and non-verbal working memory skills were assessed for group differences, and to determine the degree to which verbal and/or non-verbal working memory skills correlated with narrative recall measures and inferencing scores.

No presentation effect was found for any of the measures. Children in the LLI group recalled fewer story grammar components than their CA and LA peers, although the pattern of story grammar responses was similar for all groups. Recalled narratives of children with LLI yielded lower DSS scores than the LA and CA peers, and the LA peers earned significantly lower DSS scores than the CA peers. Children with LLI answered fewer inferencing questions correctly compared to LA and CA peers, but a similar hierarchy of inferencing skills emerged for all of the groups: more children answered information inferencing questions correctly, followed by value and logic inferencing questions. Finally, children in the LLI group earned lower verbal working memory scores than their CA peers, but all groups earned similar non-verbal working memory scores. Verbal working memory scores significantly correlated with ten of the twelve language variables, but no correlation was found for the non-verbal working memory measure and the language variables.

For story grammar, syntactic complexity and inferencing skills, children in the LLI group produced a delayed, and not a developmentally unique, pattern of responses compared to CA and LA peers. Possible contributors to the difficulties children with LLI face during story recall and comprehension are discussed, including reading comprehension disorders, incomplete situational models, and inefficient working memory. Treatment techniques that target story grammar organization, cohesive devices, and activation of previously learned and experienced knowledge are suggested.

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