Melissa Parry & Catherine Ballif with Dr. Martin Fujiki, Audiology and Speech Language Pathology
The purpose of this study is to determine the differences in social behaviors of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and typically developing children. Children with SLI are known to be more withdrawn in structured social situations. However, to date, there has not been substantial research on the differences in behavior between these two populations in an unstructured environment such as the playground.
This research is an on-going effort by graduate and undergraduate students in the Speech- Language Pathology Department under the direction and supervision of Dr. Martin Fujiki. Previous to our participation in the project, another research team at Brigham Young University collected, transcribed, and analyzed data collected in a playground setting for eight children, who were diagnosed with SLI. Researchers collected data by video-taping the subject, who was wearing an FM transmitter. Each subject was taped in 15-minute intervals during recess. A total of 60 minutes was gathered for each child. This data continues to be analyzed and researched to discover greater insights into the social behavior of such children. Our involvement included similar collection and transcription of data for normal developing children. The first phase of our project entailed selecting eight typically developing children, each of whom would be matched with one of the eight subjects with SLI in age, gender, school grade, and community background. Four potential matches were chosen for each subject with SLI. Only one of the four children was selected to be observed for the 60-minute sample. The remaining children were selected to wear dummy transmitters as decoys.
In order to obtain permission slips from the parents of the 32 selected children, we attended parent-teacher conferences. During this time, we were able to better explain our project to the parents and teachers, as well as answer any questions or concerns they had. We found that most parents and teachers were willing to help. This is evident in our obtaining permission from the parents for 90% of the potential subjects. The parents of three children expressed concern and did not consent.
The quality of the data collected depended on our ability to operate the equipment. We used two Canon 8-mm camcorders and 4 pairs of transmitters. It was necessary to discover which pairs of transmitters created static when used together. It was also necessary to become familiar with the equipment before using it to collect data. The school where we observed on the playground is located in Jordan School District in the Salt Lake Valley, which meant scheduling a rental car and commuting for every session. One of the problems we ran into was arriving at the school to find the scheduled child either absent or unwilling to go outside and play. At this point, there was no way to resolve the situation except to come back and observe another time. Once, when a child refused to play at recess, the teacher insisted that she wear the transmitter and go outside. Because she did not want to play outside without her friends, who were all playing inside, the subject did not interact with anyone on the playground, but rather sat down and complained about having to be outside. This was not a very accurate playground sample for this subject. Because sometimes normal children can have abnormal days, we realized that many short samples would be more representative of behavior than a few long samples on abnormal days.
Another problem we encountered was that the children would decide after a few sessions that they did not want to be observed anymore. Since part of the terms of participation included the children’s right to discontinue at anytime, this forced us to start over with another subject. This was particularly difficult in the case of the child for whom we had 40 recorded minutes.
Other factors also made it necessary to start over with new subjects. Toward the end of data collection, we asked the subjects’ teachers to complete a behavior questionnaire. Through this questionnaire we learned that one child spoke English as a second language. Another subject’s teacher reported behavior problems. Such factors no longer qualified these children as valid matches to the SLI counterparts. This problem could have been solved by administering the behavior questionnaire to the teachers before we began videotaping the subjects.
The purpose of the decoys was to take the attention off of the children being videotaped. We expected our decoy system to work. However, the children wearing the dummy transmitters, as well as the other children on the playground, could tell that they were not being videotaped. The children not wearing transmitters at all discovered that certain children were consistently chosen to wear them. Also, the children wearing the transmitters knew that they were being observed and therefore behaved slightly different from normal. We should not have underestimated the ability of young children to perceive what is happening around them. However, as the children with SLI were observed under the same conditions, these variables should not influence the results.
After collecting the 60-minute sample for each subject, we began the process of transcribing the samples. Transcription included not only recording everything that was said, but also everything that was done by the subjects and those with whom they interacted. We originally anticipated completing the transcriptions by mid-March. However, we found transcription took longer than we planned. In general, transcribing the samples went smoothly.
At this point, the samples have been recorded, transcribed, and prepared for analysis. Future participants in this project will code the behavior of the normal subjects. This information will be used in comparison with that of the impaired subjects. Preliminary results have shown that children with SLI spend a significant amount of time in withdrawn behaviors. We expect the analysis of the normal subjects to show less time spent in withdrawn tendencies.