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Effectiveness of semantic therapy for word-finding difficulties in pupils with persistent language impairments: a randomized control trial

Ebbels, SH; Nicoll, H; Clark, B; Eachus, B; Gallagher, AL; Horniman, K; Jennings, M; ... Turner, G; + view all (2012) Effectiveness of semantic therapy for word-finding difficulties in pupils with persistent language impairments: a randomized control trial. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders , 47 (1) pp. 35-51. 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00073.x. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Word-finding difficulties (WFDs) in children have been hypothesized to be caused at least partly by poor semantic knowledge. Therefore, improving semantic knowledge should decrease word-finding errors. Previous studies of semantic therapy for WFDs are inconclusive. AIMS: To investigate the effectiveness of semantic therapy for secondary school-aged pupils with WFDs using a randomized control trial with blind assessment. METHODS & PROCEDURES: Fifteen participants with language impairments and WFDs (aged 9;11–15;11) were randomly assigned to a therapy versus waiting control group. In Phase 1 the therapy group received two 15-min semantic therapy sessions per week for 8 weeks with their usual speech and language therapist. Therapy for each participant targeted words from one of three semantic categories (animals, food, clothes). All participants were tested pre- and post-phase 1 therapy on the brief version of the Test of Adolescent Word Finding (TAWF), semantic fluency and the Test of Word Finding in Discourse (TWFD). In Phase 2 the waiting control group received the same therapy as the original therapy group, which received therapy targeted at other language areas. Testing after Phase 2 aimed to establish whether the waiting control group made similar progress to the original therapy group and whether the original therapy group maintained any gains. OUTCOMES & RESULTS: The original therapy group made significant progress in standard scores on the TAWF (d= 0.94), which was maintained 5 months later. However, they made no progress on the semantic fluency or discourse tests. Participants in the waiting control group did not make significant progress on the TAWF in Phase 1 when they received no word-finding therapy. However, after Phase 2, when they received the therapy, they also made significant progress (d= 0.81). The combined effect of therapy over the two groups was d= 1.2. The mean standard scores on the TAWF were 67 pre-therapy and 77 post-therapy. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Four hours of semantic therapy on discrete semantic categories led to significant gains on a general standardized test of word finding, enabling the participants to begin to close the gap between their performance and that of their typically developing peers. These gains were maintained after 5 months. A small amount of therapy can lead to significant gains even with secondary aged pupils with severe language difficulties. However, further studies are needed to find ways of improving word-finding abilities in discourse.

Type: Article
Title: Effectiveness of semantic therapy for word-finding difficulties in pupils with persistent language impairments: a randomized control trial
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00073.x
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00073.x
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1516139
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