Another look at nonverbal rule induction in children with SLI: Testing a flexible reconceptualization hypothesis

Barbara Kiernan, David Snow, Linda Swisher, Rebecca Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the ability of preschool children with specific language impairment (SLI) to extract target regularities from recurring nonverbal stimuli. As a step beyond previous methodologies, we also assessed their ability to shift and extract other regularities after feedback indicated that their choices were no longer correct. This step was motivated by Connell and Stone's (1994) hypothesis that difficulties manifested by children with SLI in extracting nonverbal 'rules' from multiple problem sets may reflect difficulties in 'flexible reconceptualization,' that is, in the ability to flexibly shift across regularities. Thirty 4- and 5-year-olds with SLI and 30 age-matched children developing language normally participated in a discrimination learning-shift paradigm. Findings indicated that both language groups were successful in extracting regularities and making shifts. In fact, language groups did not differ in number of regularities extracted, number of shifts completed, or trials to criterion. As a consequence, findings failed to provide evidence that children with SLI are limited in either the ability to extract nonverbal regularities or to flexibly reconceptualize them. From a larger theoretical perspective, the findings fail to support theories positing that generalized 'rule-induction' deficits underlie the verbal and nonverbal impairments of SLI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1997


  • Nonverbal skills
  • Preschool children
  • Rule induction
  • Specific language impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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