Skill acquisition in kindergarten children with language impairment

Adi-Japha, E. 1, 2 , Julius, M. 1 , Strulovich-Schwartz , O. 1 & Abu-Asba, H. 1

1 School of Education Bar-Ilan University, Israel
2 The Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

The Procedural memory system is involved in the acquisition of motor skills (e.g., handwriting), as well as in the acquisition of language skills such as the implicit knowledge of language rules. To date there is scarcity of tasks for assessing consolidation and retention of skills in children younger than 8 years. Consequently, it is not common to test whether children at risk for learning disabilities, such as kindergarteners with ADHD or language impairment (LI), have deficient skill learning. First, we found that kindergarteners, second graders and adults display and retain consolidation gains for a simple grapho-motor symbol acquisition task. Then, we studied skill acquisition in kindergarteners with LI using the same task as well as using a more complex grapo-motor symbol. Our results indicate differences in performance speed between the groups: children with LI showed a later onset of rapid learning in the practice phase, and only the comparison group exhibited delayed, consolidation, gains 24 h post-training. In the more complex task children with LI exhibited forgetting in the absence stabilized plateau performance. These findings indicate atypical and delayed acquisition in children with LI, and support the view that deficient skill acquisition in LI goes beyond the language system.