Language learning impairment: Integrating research and remediation



Timing cues present in the acoustic waveform of speech provide critical information for the recognition and segmentation of the ongoing speech signal. Research has demonstrated that deficient temporal perception rates, that have been shown to specifically disrupt acoustic processing of speech, are related to specific language-based learning impairments (LLI). Temporal processing deficits correlate highly with the phonological discrimination and processing deficits of these children. Electrophysiological single cell mapping studies of sensory cortex in brains of primates have shown that neural circuitry can be remapped after specific, temporally cohesive training regimens, demonstrating the dynamic plasticity of the brain. Recently, we combined these two lines of research in a series of studies that addressed whether the temporal processing deficits seen in LLIs can be significantly modified through adaptive training aimed at reducing temporal integration thresholds. Simultaneously, we developed a computer algorithm that expanded and enhanced the brief, rapidly changing acoustic segments within ongoing speech and used this to provide intensive speech and language training exercises to these children. Results to date from two independent laboratory experiments, as well as a large national clinical efficacy trial, demonstrate that dramatic improvements in temporal integration thresholds, together with speech and language comprehension abilities of LLI children, results from training with these new computer-based training procedures.