Children with brain injuries have problems with story-telling

Jul 26, 2010

Children with brain injuries have difficulty developing story-telling skills even though other language abilities, such as vocabulary, tend to catch up with other children as they mature, research at the University of Chicago shows.

"Our findings suggest that there may be limitations to the remarkable flexibility for language functions displayed by with brain injuries," said Özlem Ece Demir, a researcher at the University of Chicago and lead author of a paper reporting the research. It is estimated that 1 in 4,000 infants has a brain injury known as pre- or perinatal , mainly as a result of stroke, with risk factors involving both mothers and babies.

Demir is part of a University research team that has been studying children with brain lesions — areas of damaged tissue — to learn more about . Studying children with brain injuries gives researchers insights into theories of , researchers said. For the study on story-telling, the team compared those children with children who have typical development.

Their findings are reported in "Narrative Skill in children with Early Unilaterail : A possible limit to Functional Plasticity" the paper, in the current issue of Developmental Science. Joining Demir were Chicago colleagues Susan Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology, and Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.

The 11 children with brain injuries had a median age of six and included eight girls and three boys. The 20-member group of typically developing children included 11 girls and nine boys of approximately the same age as the children with brain injuries.

The children were asked to tell a story after given a situation that suggested a narrative, such as, "Once there was a little boy named Alan who had many different kinds of toys." They were prompted by questions such as "anything else?" until the children said they were done.

The stories were then analyzed for length, vocabulary diversity, syntactic complexity, overall structure and use of inference. The study found that the children with brain injuries produced shorter, less complex stories than typically developing children. Further testing showed that the children with brain injuries had similar vocabulary and sentence comprehension abilities to the typically developing children.

The ability to tell a story is a more complex activity than learning words and sentence structure, researchers said. Because that skill requires flexibility in using words, it may be more vulnerable to developmental delays than other aspects of language learning.

Because the children were just starting school, it is unclear if the difficulties in forming stories indicate a permanent condition or one that changes over time.

Other research has shown that parents can boost their children's story-telling skills by engaging them in conversations around narratives. The body of research may suggest that parents of children with brain injuries should pay extra attention to helping their children form narratives during their preschool years, researchers said.

Explore further: Gene variant linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and alcoholism

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain Waves Aid Study of Language Impairment

Mar 09, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- By looking at how the brain responds to different aspects of grammar, specifically nouns and verbs, researchers at the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders are hoping to provide a better understanding ...

Children who do not get enough sleep sustain more injuries

Feb 21, 2008

Lack of adequate sleep can lead to increased injuries among preschool children, new research shows. This study published in Public Health Nursing shows that the average number of injuries during the preschool years is two ...

How the brain copes in language-impaired kids

Mar 12, 2008

Researchers at UCL (University College London) have discovered that a system in the brain for processing grammar is impaired in some children with specific language impairment (SLI), but that these children compensate with ...

1st US study -- gymnastics lands thousands in ER

Apr 04, 2008

More than 600,000 children participate in school-sponsored and club-level gymnastics competitions annually in the United States. Yet gymnastics continues to be overlooked in terms of potential for injury, while having one ...

Recommended for you

How children categorize living things

6 hours ago

How would a child respond to this question? Would his or her list be full of relatives, animals from movies and books, or perhaps neighborhood pets? Would the poppies blooming on the front steps make the list or the oak tree ...

Preschoolers can reflect on what they don't know

6 hours ago

Contrary to previous assumptions, researchers find that preschoolers are able to gauge the strength of their memories and make decisions based on their self-assessments. The study findings are published in ...

User comments : 0