This paper will briefly outline the definitions of important terms used in language and communication for neuro-typical developing children and the timely acquisition of these skills. Common expressional mistakes made by young children acquiring speech will be highlighted and ways in which we naturally adjust our own speech and communication to assist with these transient errors.
A biological preparedness is noted as an essential requirement for normal development of communication, speech and language; however, individuals with an intellectual disability or physical disability (or a combination of both) may not possess this innate blueprint. Therefore, suitable assessments will be discussed to assess communication deficits along with the varying interventions and programs needed to encourage appropriate and functional communication alternative(s). The validity of assessments and observations conducted on a child with a disability are directly linked to the adherence of a multi-dimensional approach. Activities associated with encouraging communication will be described in detail and will emphasise the importance of utilising an ecological approach in combination with direct instruction when teaching a person with an intellectual disability.
Language, Communication and other Relevant Terms
Language is by definition a socially shared code that allows users of this code to exchange information, ideas and feelings (Shames & Wiig, 1986). The speakers of a language agree upon what symbols will be used and underlying knowledge of the system is commonly referred to as ‘linguistic competence’. Language is governed by applying a combination of complex rules. Lahey and Bloom (1978) have divided language into three distinguishing categories: form, content and use.
Form includes the syntax, morphology and phonology. Syntax is the system used within a language that specifies acceptable word order in order to comprehend the intended message (Matthews, 2010). Simply put syntax is the ‘mental’ rules we use to form grammatical sentences (Hoff, 2009). Famous author, Harry Mathews (1930), once stated that the syntax and vocabulary of a language “are ‘overwhelming constraints’-the rules that run us. Language is using us to talk- we think we’re using the language, but language is doing the thinking, we’re its slavish agents.” This statement is epitomised within ‘Whorfian Hypothesis’. Benjamin Whorf was an American linguist who proposed that one’s language, culture and classification distinctions, directly influences the native speaker’s behaviour and cognition. An example of using correct syntax in the English language could be, ‘Shelly is playing outside’, however, if I was to phrase the same sentence this way. ‘Playing outside is Shelly’, it would not be grammatically correct because in the English language we use the rule which states that subjects (nouns) are usually said before the verb (action word).
Morphology is a system used linguistics whereby words or parts of words, such as ‘ed’, can be combined to change the tense, plurality or convert a verb to a noun. An example of using morphology may be as simple as ‘dance’ to ‘dancer’ or by adding an extra consonant such as ‘run’ to ‘runner (Matthews, 2010). According to Shames and Wiig (1986), some linguists believe that morphology is a subcategory of syntax. Words are made up of one or more smaller unit called morphemes. Morphemes can be broken up into two categories, a free morpheme or a bound morpheme (Hoff, 2009). A free morpheme can be used independently such as, cat, small and happy. Bound morphemes cannot act independently; they need to be connected with a free morpheme or a bound morpheme. Here is an example of adding a bound morpheme to a free morpheme, you will see it can change the word meaning and clearly demonstrates a semantic distinction: cat - cats, small - smaller, happy – unhappy.
The phonology of a language pertains to the...