Information Processing by School-Age Children with Specific Language Impairment: Evidence from a Modality Effect Paradigm

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research






American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



School-age children with specific language impairment (SLI) and age-matched controls were tested for immediate recall of digits presented visually, auditorily, or audiovisually. Recall tasks compared speaking and pointing response modalities. Each participant was tested at a level that was consistent with her or his auditory short-term memory span. Traditional effects of primacy, recency, and modality (an auditory recall advantage) were obtained for both groups. The groups performed similarly when audiovisual stimuli were paired with a spoken response, but children with SLI had smaller recency effects together with an unusually poor recall when visually presented items were paired with a pointing response. Such results cannot be explained on the basis of an auditory or speech deficit per se, and suggest that children with SLI have difficulty either retaining or using phonological codes, or both, during tasks that require multiple mental operations. Capacity limitations, involving the rapid decay of phonological representations and/or performance limitations related to the use of less demanding and less effective coding and retrieval strategies, could have contributed to the working memory deficiencies in the children with SLI.


Published by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research. Publisher PDF is available through link above. Publisher requires a subscription to access article.