Using Eye Gaze to Examine Language Production Processes in Children with Language Impairments

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  • Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is a label given to children who have a language impairment not accompanied by hearing loss, cognitive impairment or neurological damage (Leonard, 2014). There is substantial evidence that information processing skills, such as speed of processing or working memory, pose a significant challenge to children with SLI. The extent of these challenges, however, is not yet fully understood. There is some evidence that individuals with SLI experience greater interference from recent information during language processing, possibly due to slow decay of information that is no longer needed. The evidence to date, however, is limited and scattered across varied methods. The examination of eye gaze patterns during language processing has the potential to provide novel insights into online cognitive processing and language planning as it is in progress. This project reports on pilot data examining eye gaze patterns of children with SLI during a picture naming task. Its aim was to develop a better understanding of the nature of processing challenges during language planning and production. Participants with SLI (n = 5) and typical language development (n = 3) named pictures presented in sets of three on a computer screen and their eye movement patterns were tracked using an SR Research EyeLink 1000 Plus remote eye tracker. Recordings of each child’s verbal response and information on timing and accuracy was collected. Our results revealed a similar gaze pattern for both groups but the children with SLI spent more time looking at each individual picture before naming it.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International