Self-regulatory speech during planning and problem-solving in children with SLI and their typically developing peers.


Background: Past research with children with specific language impairment (SLI) has shown them to have poorer planning and problem-solving ability, and delayed self-regulatory speech (SRS) relative to their typically developing (TD) peers. However, the studies are few in number and are restricted in terms of the number and age range of participants, which limits our understanding of the nature and extent of any delays. Moreover, no study has examined the performance of a significant subset of children with SLI, those who have hyperactive and inattentive behaviours. Aims: This cross-sectional study aimed to compare the performance of young children with SLI (aged 4-7 years) with that of their TD peers on a planning and problem-solving task and to examine the use of SRS while performing the task. Within each language group, the performance of children with and without hyperactive and inattentive behaviours was further examined. Methods & Procedures: Children with SLI (n = 91) and TD children (n = 81), with and without hyperactive and inattentive behaviours across the three earliest school years (Kindergarten, Preprimary and Year 1) were video-taped while they completed the Tower of London (TOL), a planning and problem-solving task. Their recorded speech was coded and analysed to look at differences in SRS and its relation to TOL performance across the groups. Main Contribution: Children with SLI scored lower on the TOL than TD children. Additionally, children with hyperactive and inattentive behaviours performed worse than those without hyperactive and inattentive behaviours, but only in the SLI group. This suggests that children with SLI with hyperactive and inattentive behaviours experience a double deficit. Children with SLI produced less inaudible muttering than TD children, and showed no reduction in social speech across the first three years of school. Finally, for children with SLI, a higher percentage performed better on the TOL when they used SRS than when they did not. Conclusions & Implications: The results point towards a significant delay in the development and internalization of SRS in the SLI group, which should be taken into account when considering the planning and problem-solving of young children with SLI.