Relationship between School-aged Executive Functions and Oral Narrative Skills By: Sarah Lambeth Eastern Illinois University Faculty Mentors: Mrs. Jill Fahy Dr. Rebecca Throneburg
Executive Functions • Metacognitive skills necessary for successful goal achievement (Jurado & Rosselli, 2007). • Cognitive Processes: • Attention • Working Memory • Key components: • Intentional determination • Planning and organization • Initiation and persistence • Flexibility/shifting • Inhibitory control • Self-monitoring and regulation (Gioia, Isquith, Guy, & Kenworthy, 2000; Jurado & Rosselli, 2007)
Development of Executive Functions and Narrative Skills • Executive function development • Emerge during early childhood • Spurts similar to prefrontal cortex development • Prefrontal structures of the brain are involved in executive function skills (Jurado & Rosselli, 2007, Anderson, 2002). • Prefrontal activation is also associated with narrative comprehension and production tasks (Mar, 2004).
Previous Research • Differences in executive function profiles of different groups (e.g., language impaired verses typical) • Relationships between individual language skills and isolated executive function abilities measured in nonfunctional laboratory tasks. • Carlson, Davis, & Leach, 2005; Carlson, 2005; Im-Bolter, Johnson, & Pascual-Leone, 2006; Cohen, Vallance, Barwick, Im, Menna, Horodesky, & Isaacson, 2000; Hoffman & Gillam, 2004; Marton, & Schwartz, 2003 • Relationship between specific aspects of language and behavioral executive functions as displayed in everyday environments, in preschoolers, school-age children, and adolescents. • Hughes, Turksta, & Wulfeck, 2009; Trainor, 2010; Liesen, 2011 • Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF)
Relationship exists between executive functions and written narrative ability in school-age children • Hooper, Swartz, Wakely, Kruif, & Montgomery, 2002 • Research investigating narratives and ADHD has indicated a significant relationship between specific executive functions (working memory, planning, attention, inhibition) and narrative skills • Purvis & Tannock, 1997; Tannock, Purvis, & Schacher, 1993; Milch-Reich, Campbell, Pelham, Connelly, & Geva, 1999; Renz et al., 2003; Flory et al., 2006; Luo & Timler, 2008 • Only one study has used functional measures of both executive functions and language. • Trainor, 2010 • BRIEF (executive functions) and Renfrew Bus Story (narrative skills)
Research Questions 1. What is the relationship between executive function skills and narrative production and comprehension abilities? 2. What is the relationship between executive function skills and microstructural elements of narrative language abilities, specifically productivity and complexity?
Subjects • All in a general education classroom at a Central Illinois public school
Measure of Executive Functions:Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Functions—Parent Form (BRIEF) • Parents rated their child’s executive function skills in the natural environment • Behavioral Regulation Index • Inhibit Control • Shift Control • Emotional Control • Metacognition Index • Initiate • Working Memory • Plan/Organize • Organization of Materials • Monitor • Global Executive Composite • T-scores of 65 and above indicate clinical significance/area of concern
Measure of Narrative Skills:Test of Narrative Language (TNL) • Tasks: comprehend, retell, and generate stories • Story comprehension questions (3 tasks) • Story production (3 tasks) • Story retell without picture • Story generation with picture sequence • Story generation with single picture • Standardized measure of: • Oral Narration (Expressive) • Narrative Comprehension (Receptive) • Total Narrative Language Index
Microstructure:Index of Narrative Microstructure (INMIS) • INMIS Complexity • Syntactic organization • Subcomponents • Mean Length of T-units-Morphemes (MLT-M) • Proportion of Complex T-units (PROPCOMP) • INMIS Productivity • Total word output and the degree of lexical diversity • Subcomponents: • Total Number of Words (TNW) • Number of Different Words (NDW) Productivity= -1.60 + ( -0.0010 x MLT-W) + ( = -0.21 x PROPCOMPLEX) + (0.017 x NDW) + ( -0.00054 x TNW) + (0.014 x COORD) + (0.0072 x SUBORD) + (0.0094 x LENGTH) + (0.068 x COMPLEX). Complexity= -2.84 + (0.21 x MLT-W) + ( -0.0027 x TNW) + (0.028 X COORD) + (0.026 x SUBORD) + ( -0.085 x LENGTH) + (0/14 x COMPLEX).
Results: BRIEF and TNL Means & Standard Deviations • Standard scores represented as T-scores: Mean= 50, SD= 10 • T-scores >65 are considered clinically significant (higher score = greater impairment) • Subtest standard scores (SS): Mean= 10, SD= 3. • Total Narrative Language Index: Mean= 100, SD= 15
INMIS Means and Standard Deviations • Standard scores represented as Z-scores: Mean= 0, SD= 1
Correlation between Executive Functions and Narrative Skills *Indicates significance at the .05 level **Indicates significance at the .01 level
Correlation between Executive Functions and Microstructure (INMIS Productivity and Complexity) *Indicates significance at the .05 level **Indicates significance at the .01 level
Comparison to previous research • Expressive language tasks were more strongly related to executive functions than receptive language tasks. • Confirms results from Liesen’s study using the CELF-3 (isolated tasks) and the BRIEF • Narrative ability is strongly related to executive functions (shift, plan/organize, and monitor). • Confirms results from Trainor’s study with the preschool population (RENFREW and BRIEF) • Results suggest that narrative productivity is significantly related to the executive components of shifting (flexibility), organization, and planning. • Confirms Trainor’s finding that Sentence Length on the RENFREW was significantly related to BRIEF scores
Clinical Implications • Suggests that expressive language skills in applied, narrative tasks engage not only language abilities, but also executive functions. • Narrative language ability is strongly related to the executive components of shifting, planning/organizing, and monitoring. • Overall word output and diversity of vocabulary in narratives may rely more on executive function skills than the length of T-units and degree of syntactic complexity. • Speech-language pathologists should assess executive functions within their testing battery and adjust compensatory strategies that rely on intact executive functions
Limitations • Small, homogeneous sample • Indirect measures of executive functions (based on parent report) without direct measures to supplement the data • Few types of narrative tasks were used, including only oral story retell and story generation with a picture sequence and a single picture cue. • Unable to assess macrostructure using the Narrative Scoring Scheme (NSS) • Not normed for the TNL
Future Research • Similar study with larger, more diverse sample, including a wider age range • Similar study including children with language disorders • Study using both direct and indirect measures of executive functions • Treatment of executive dysfunction
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