Lexical retrieval difficulties in children

Principal Investigators: Wendy Best (UCL), Jackie Masterson (UCL-IoE), Michael Thomas (Birkbeck)

Funder: ESRC


Project description: We all experience difficulties in retrieving words occasionally. Children with difficulties learning language (around 7 per cent of the population) can experience considerable problems in retrieving words in their vocabulary. This difficulty can influence children’s relationships, self-esteem and education. The study has three strands. (1) The first involves collecting data from children with typically developing language (TDL) and others with word-finding difficulties (WFD). Accuracy and speed of naming, and related skills involving processing word meaning and sounds will be compared for children at different stages of development.(2) The second involves neurocomputational modelling of the processes involved in word retrieval. Constraints within the model can be varied to reflect the patterns shown by children TDL and with WFD. The model will then be used to predict optimal intervention approaches for children with different underlying difficulties. (3) And the third involves an experimentally controlled intervention in which children with WFD take part in one form of therapy most appropriate to their difficulty and one building on their strengths to determine which approach is more effective. Results on testing and on wider outcome measures will inform practice. By combining approaches from different disciplines, the research will inform understanding of typical and atypical language development and intervention.


Alireza, H., Fedor, A., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2017). Simulating behavioural interventions for developmental deficits: When improving strengths produces better outcomes than remediating weaknesses. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink & E. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, London, UK, 26-29 July 2017.

Best, W., Hughes, L. M., Masterson, J., Thomas, M. S. C., Fedor, A., Roncoli, S., Fern-Pollack, L., Shepherd, D. L., Howard, D., Shobbrook, K., & Kapikian, A. (2017). Intervention for children with word-finding difficulties: a parallel group randomised control trialInternational Journal of Speech Language Pathology, Jul 31:1-12.

Best, W., Fedor, A., Hughes, L., Kapikian, A., Masterson, J., Roncoli, S., Fern-Pollak, L., & Thomas, M. S. C. (2015). Intervening to alleviate word-finding difficulties in children: Case series data and a neurocomputational foundation. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 32:3-4, 133-168, Click here for pdf version.

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