Teaching Children with Language and Memory Deficits

Children with learning difficulties require special attention from caregivers and teachers. Understanding the particular needs of these children is imperative to ensure that they achieve academic and social success. Memory and language are two separate elements of cognitive developmentthat influence the overall well-being of a child. Research has shown that deficits in these two domains can overlap, creating an even more complicated framework in which these children must be taught. Lisa Archibald, of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department of the University of Western Ontario at Elborn College in London, led a study in an attempt to identify how teachers address these issues, separately and collectively, in the classroom.

Archibald examined teacher reports from six sets of children with impairments, two of whom had specific language impairments (SLI), two with specific working memory impairments (SWMI), and two with mixed language and memory deficits. The average age of the children was 8 years, and each of the children was paired with a child who had no learning challenges to serve as a control. The teachers assessed the children’s behaviors, communication styles, attention, and memory skills as well as their language abilities and reported their findings via questionnaires supplied by Archibald and her colleagues.

The results revealed that, with the exception of one child, all of the children in the study exhibited challenges across the areas of math, spelling, and reading. Additionally, all of the children also displayed behavior and attention problems. The children with language deficits were especially prone to problems and had to receive cues to keep them on task with memory issues. Archibald believes that these findings underscore the importance of teaching specifically to the special needs of these children. Archibald added, “It is clear that these tentative findings of specific and cross-domain impacts of developmental language and working memory impairments on school learning warrant further investigation.”

Archibald, L., Joanisse, M., Edmunds, A. “Specific Language or Working Memory Impairments: A Small Scale Observational Study.” Child Language Teaching and Therapy 27.3 (2011): 294-312. Print.

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  • Kristen reeves

    Kristen reeves

    February 4th, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    What special teachers these children have, or should have, in the classroom! Not a job that I could ever do.

  • Barry


    February 4th, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    Children with learning problems do need special attention no doubt about it.But how is that determined in the first place?Other than an observant teacher,how could a child with such difficulties be identified earlier so that the remedies start earlier too?

  • Kimberly parker

    Kimberly parker

    February 4th, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    A lot of such kids would suffer in school I can imagine.The teachers are not experts so obviously they may not identify that there’s a problem with the child and always go on to blame the child or call him lazy. This can make things further worse for the child.

    Oh how important teachers are to us!

  • Roberta


    February 4th, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    It is not only going to be the learning problems that are going to cause issues later on down the road, but the behavioral and emotional problems that tend to stem from those too.

  • Chris


    February 4th, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    Teachers provide avenues for children to learn. Follow a great teacher for one day and you will find out how kids learn. Look at nuts and bolts, you will have nuts and bolts. Great teachers provide opportunities. Therapists don’t teach what do they do? They see small pieces and theorize how parts fit together. Does it make for a great learning environment? No!

  • Keith


    February 5th, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Teaching kids like this will not only require a change in the procedures but also in the teaching methods employed by the teachers.i believe they would do better if they receive training in handling such kids,they would be better equipped that way and will know how to proceed with the courses.

  • April


    February 6th, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    All of this is weel and good but I have to speak up as a classroom teacher. We have so many kids that it becomes such a challenge to be able to reach out to all of them. Add to this disorders such as this and you can seriously feel overwhelmed and fast! We have got to do a better job lobbying for smaller classrooms as well as more one on one help for these children. They are never going to get the skills that they need to survive, much less succeed, if we do not give them better than this!

  • LeoMagan


    February 19th, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    It’s great that this blog helps parents, educators, administrators etc understand that when helping children with special needs such as Specific Language Impairment, it is not just about teaching them in a smaller class or one to one, but teaching them in a different way altogether.
    If the children already have a language impairment, it would be important to incorporate more non-language modalities to help children to learn e.g. graphic organizers, mind maps,role-play or drama etc.
    I also strongly agree with the comment that it is very important for speech and language therapists to see not just the ‘nuts and bolts’, a child with skill deficits but a child who has a life: a child who should be working with friends in a class project without feeling unwelcome, and playing with friends in the playground without being left out,and coping with homework without being overwhelmed.
    It would be beneficial for children to have therapists working together with teachers, and for children to experience therapy in a group setting to best prepare them for succeeding in real-life environments.

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