Unlocking later-developing language skills in older children by means of focused language stimulation

  • Frenette Southwood Stellenbosch University
  • Ondene van Dulm Stellenbosch University
Keywords: later developing language, syntax, pragmatics, Afrikaans


Certain language structures and skills continue to develop after the age of school entry. The present study sought to establish whether directly targeting the development of such complex language structures and skills in comprehension and production can be successful among older, school-going children. The data for the present study comprise four case studies of children with language learning problems, including language comprehension problems: one 5, one 6, and two 7 years of age. Relevant parts of the Receptive and Expressive Activities for Language Therapy (Southwood & Van Dulm, 2012) were used during six to eight language stimulation sessions. Substantial gains were seen when comparing pre- and post-stimulation language assessment results on the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation (Seymour, Roeper, & De Villiers, 2005). The implication is that direct targeting of specific later developing language structures and skills can render the desired results, well after their usual age of acquisition, even among children with language comprehension problems and within a limited number of sessions. Given the relationship between language skills and the development of reading skills, the findings have implications for the literacy development of Foundation Phase learners who enter school with underdeveloped language skills.

Author Biographies

Frenette Southwood, Stellenbosch University
Frenette Southwood is a qualified speech-language therapist and audiologist with an MA in Clinical Linguistics (Stellenbosch University) and a PhD in Linguistics (Radboud University Nijmegen). She has been a lecturer and researcher in the Department of General Linguistics at Stellenbosch University since 2000. Her research focuses on the development of culturally and linguistically appropriate child language assessment instruments and on typical and atypical language development in South African children.
Ondene van Dulm, Stellenbosch University
Ondene van Dulm studied Speech Therapy and Audiology at Stellenbosch University and was also awarded an MA in Clinical Linguistics by this institution. Her PhD research at Radboud University Nijmegen focused on structural properties of code switching between Afrikaans and English. She worked as lecturer and researcher in the Department of General Linguistics at Stellenbosch University from 1998 to 2008, during which time her research focused on sociolinguistic phenomena related to multilingualism in South Africa. She then joined the Communication Disorders Department at Canterbury University in New Zealand, where she continued her work on culturally and linguistically fair child language assessment and intervention.