Classification of Developmental Language Disorders: Theoretical Issues and Clinical Implications

By Ludo Verhoeven; Hans Van Balkom | Go to book overview

2
Neuroplasticity and Development:
The Acquisition of Morphosyntax
in Children With Early Focal
Lesions and Children With Specific Language Impairment
Judy Reilly
Jill Weckerly
Beverly Wulfeck

San Diego State University

In the 1960s, both Lenneberg (1967) and Basser (1962) noted that children with brain damage did not suffer to the same extent as adults with comparable damage. These observations provoked much interest in the issue of brain plasticity, especially with respect to language, and much attention has been devoted to how neuroanatomical regions become specialized for specific language functions. One fruitful means to address such issues is to chart the course of language development in groups of children in special circumstances. In this chapter, we draw from two complementary studies (Reilly, Losh, Bellugi, & Wulfeck, in press; Weckerly, Reilly, & Wulfeck, in press) to consider fundamental issues in hemispheric specialization and plasticity by examining the language abilities of two clinical groups of children purported to demonstrate atypical language behavior: children with early unilateral focal brain lesions (FL) and children with specific language impairment (SLI). Although children with SLI have no overt anatomical abnormalities or specific lesions that might be linked to their impairments, they exhibit a number of language deficits quite similar to patterns seen among adult aphasics who have suffered a clear neurological insult. In contrast, children who have sustained focal brain damage early in infancy have clear and localizable anatomical abnormalities, yet their language difficulties are more subtle, if nonexistent, on many measures. The contrastive neurobehavioral profiles of these two groups,

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