Phonological Awareness and Memory in Children with Severe Speech and

Abstract: Children with severe speech and physical impairment (SSPI) often have problems acquiring the level of literacy that could be expected from their general level of intelligence or their other communicative abilities. The aim of this thesis was to examine phonological awareness and memory abilities in children with SSPI. Both factors are considered strong predictors of literacy in typically developing children. In Study I a group of 15 children with SSPI (mean age 8.7 years) was compared to a group of 15 typically developing children matched for sex, linguistic- and mental age on nine different phonological awareness tasks. The aim was to see whether the overall performance of the groups differed and whether they revealed different patterns of performance, i.e. which tasks they found the most difficult. Overall, all children showed good levels of phonological awareness and on eight out of nine tasks there were no significant differences between the groups. There was one task that did not include any verbal support from the experimenter and on this task the children with SSPI performed at a significantly lower level, though. It seems that good phonological awareness is not dependent on overt articulation. However, the lack of speech might affect the children?s ability to make their own sound images in memory and to manipulate phonological material that is not verbally presented. In Study II the memory abilities of the same children as in study I were investigated. Measures of phonological, spatial, and visual memory were included, both backward and forward conditions. Concerning literacy the most important measure would be the phonological memory measure and results from this study point to a possible weakness in the group with SSPI group in this respect. Taken together, the results from study I and study II revealed that the group with SSPI may have problems with phonological memory and this is also reflected in their performance on the phonological awareness tasks, where they generally performed well but had one problem area which concerned creating and maintaining their own sound images in memory

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