Communicative conditions of speech activation in children with mental retardation

General Information

Keywords: speech, motivation, early school age children, mental retardation

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

For citation: Dolgikh L.Y. Communicative conditions of speech activation in children with mental retardation. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2006. Vol. 2, no. 5 (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)

A Part of Article

In article presents the results of research, which is based on the idea that in speech development of mentally retarded children are the significant potential opportunities, which are not realized in traditional practice of speech work. Let us recollect L.S.Vygotsky’s words that the mentally retarded child, as well as any child, develops, and he necessarily has safe sides and qualities. The research problem consists in revealing, “ What in development of the mentally retarded child (L.S.Vygotsky) works not against us, but on us, i.e. what are processes, arising in the development of the mentally retarded child which conduct to overcoming backwardness, to struggle against it and to raising of the child on the maximum step “. In other words, the work is devoted to studying of an opportunity to use the communicative approach as resource of actualization of potential speech opportunities of mentally retarded schoolchildren. This approach actively develops now in a special technique of development of speech and training to language.

Legitimacy of a choice of an object of research is caused by the following circumstances.

1. The communicative approach to formation of speech activity which builds on base psycholinguistic works of N.I. Zhinkin, A.A. Leont’ev, I.A. Zimnyaya etc., more fully than the traditional technique of speech development takes into account psychological laws of an origin, structure and functioning of speech activity.

2. Speech opportunities of mentally retarded pupils are not fully realized at a lesson, and the speech skills generated at lessons have poor influence on speech engendering of children in the daily communications. One of principal causes of such state of affairs the specificity of educational speech situations, which is not taking into account psychological laws of speech activity formation.

3. At mentally retarded children the safest area of speech motivation connected with the decision of speech problems of communicative and practical character, therefore the communicative approach allows to rely upon the safe sides of child’s motivational sphere. As the motivation level in many respects determines the development, efficiency, purposefulness and other characteristics of speech activity, it is possible to expect, that exactly in situations of personally significant speech activity the child feels shortage of available speech stereotypes, and we can find out the structures of language mastering needed for the child, i.e. he really already requires them, really trying to embody in speech the contents that have personal meaning to him.

With the purpose to reveal the conditions for activization of speech activity at younger mentally retarded schoolchildren the experimental research of children statements features in different situations of speech engendering was carried out. It was supposed that creation of the conditions strengthening a communicative orientation of speech engendering promotes increasing of speech motive’s effectualness in schoolchildren that will display in changes of their communicative behavior and also in increasing of a semantic richness and semantic complexity of their statements. The basic method of research was the individual experiment. Procedure of inspection consists in presentation to each child of four tasks demanding construction of messengers of coherent statements in varying communicative conditions.

In experiment took part 196 schoolchildren (10— 12 years old) i.e. they where of the end of the third and of the beginning of the fourth form of special (correctional) schools of VIII type of Irkutsk. For the analysis of statements the following techniques were used.

1. A technique of the analysis of text’s semantic structure as hierarchies of predicates (T.M. Dridze’s adapted technique).

2. A technique for estimation of statement’s communicative development (“unwrapping”) i.e. sufficiency of the produced text for its understanding by listener and for creating favorable impression about it.

3. The structured supervision for an estimation of features of child’s communicative behavior.

Studying influence of educational communicative situation’s character on speech engendering of younger mentally retarded schoolchildren we find out that the effectualness of motive speech engendering depends on communicative conditions in which the statement is created. The influence of a communicative situation is so considerable, that it can determine communicative value of the statement of the same child in a range from the statement practically unacceptable for the communicative purposes, up to semantically and communicatively valuable (high-grade). It is proved by the following changes in speech production of children, passed through the selected communicative situations (from constructing of the statement in a situation of performance of the educational requirement traditional for a lesson to a situation of performance of speech exercise in communicatively enriched conditions).

We observed essential — twice and more — increasing of predicates’ quantity (i.e. of semantic units) in the text. This fact appears to be sufficient for children to transit qualitatively from statements unvaluable in the communicative sense, mainly consisting of one microtheme (i.e. equal to one avariciously outlined situational statement) to which children are ready in a traditional tutoring speech situation in the most cases, to polysituational, representing the event complex in the subject plan.

Appears or considerably increased a number of predicates, carrying out the illustrative function that testifies that the child has necessity to not be limited by ascertaining of the basic event but to describe it further, explaining for the listener the feature, the reason etc in details. The given quality of the text has the big value because it is connected with a high probability of orientation towards the listener and the speaker’s personal interest to the statement without which the high-grade communications cannot be held. Producing of such predicates (T.M.Dridze names them as predicates of 3 rd and-4th order) indicates that children perform complex speech actions.

Changes in the semantic part of the statements observable in experimental situations, have confirmed a hypothesis that mentally retarded children have significant potential opportunities, actualizing by including of motivational mechanisms and connected with supplying the speech engendering with communicative significance. Traditional educational situations cannot “actualize” these opportunities.

In experimental situations of traditional drawing up of the coherent story on adult’s request mentally retarded pupils fully showed the peculiarities of so called “school speech”, (that was noted in works of N.I. Zhinkin, V.J. Ljaudis and I.P. Negure). These authors connected it with features of the educational communications and its motivational characteristics. At intensification of communicative orientation of speech engendering subjects passed to more safe variants of communicative behavior, showing interest to the communication itself and producing the statement, sufficient by richness to be understood by listener. Schoolchildren demonstrated the communicative orientation of their speech engendering and orientation to the listener was demonstrated.

Changes in speech production of the mentally retarded schoolchildren are connected with increasing of a communicative orientation of speech engendering. They displayed themselves through child’s efforts to make the statement more full, clear, illustrated (growing of quantity and parameters of semantic filling of predicates). It is necessary to note, that simultaneously the statement became externally a little bit more chaotic. The children produced more language constructions not always correct from the point of view of language norms or characteristic for informal conversation. It is possible to assume, that the loss of “smoothness” of the statement in a combination with increasing of its “vivacity” and of the communicative orientation means that the child attempts to embody in speech the complex contents for which he has to use yet undergenerated language constructions. The given fact is extremely important for training because refusing stereotyped semantic and formal — language structures, the child “opens” a zone of this nearest development to the teacher. It is marked, that the given conclusion has hypothetical character and requires the further research, and, such research, probably, should be based on a joint efforts of special psychology, psycholinguistics pragmalinguistics and neuropsychology with use of the appropriate methods of these sciences because the traditional methods failed to differentiate the displays caused by defectiveness of speech-thought mechanisms, and the displays connected with change of communicative intention and with functionally-stylistic phenomena.  

Information About the Authors

Lada Y. Dolgikh, PhD in Psychology, Associate professor, Department of Theory and Practice of Special Education, Faculty of Pedagogics, Irkutsk State University, Irkutsk, Russia, e-mail:



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