Early Intervention for Young Children
With Language Impairments
Steven F. Warren
University of Kansas
Paul J. Yoder
It is inevitable that we will eventually possess the means to reliably identify many, perhaps most, young children who are at risk for developing language impairments. As chaotic as our efforts may seem at times, we are making steady progress in our knowledge of early development. Breakthroughs in genetics and neuroscience may further accelerate the pace of progress. Meanwhile we are developing a more sophisticated understanding of environmental effects and risk factors. As more and more young children participate in preschool and child-care programs, the age at which children are identified with language impairments will continue to drop.
If you accept the basic premise of the prior paragraph—that with improvements in our knowledge base the age of identification will continue to drop—then the importance of the following question is clear: Will we then be able to reliably prescribe and implement effective early interventions capable of minimizing the long-term effects of the child's impairment or even of curing the child? To some extent, the ultimate value and validity of the child language intervention field demands that we eventually achieve a positive answer to this question.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a progress report on our efforts to create effective early intervention approaches for children identified early in life with a language impairment. We first describe what we believe to be the emerging developmental model of early communication and language intervention. We describe the basic framework for this