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Psycholinguistic and Perceptual-Motor Models

Psycholinguistic (PL) and perceptual-motor (PM) assessment and intervention are the oldest, best researched, and most controversial of the aptitude models used currently with children and youth. The models make similar assumptions about cognitive processes, interventions, and anticipated effects on academic achievement. Due to these similarities, both are discussed in this section.

The primary PL model (Kirk, McCarthy, & Kirk, 1968), based on a communication theory (Osgood, 1957), had three major components: (a) channels of communication (auditory-vocal and visual-motor); (b) communication process (reception, association, and expression); and (c) levels of organization (representational and automatic-sequential). Kirk and colleagues developed the Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA) to assess these components of language processes and several volumes were published to guide intervention efforts (Bush & Giles, 1977; Kirk & Kirk, 1971; Minskoff, Wiseman, & Minskoff, 1972). The ITPA subtests and the associated intervention procedures attempted to address the following cognitive processes: auditory reception, visual reception, auditory association, visual association, verbal expression, manual expression, grammatic closure, visual closure, auditory sequential memory, visual sequential memory, auditory closure, and sound blending. Adequate functioning on these processes was assumed to be required for acquisition of literacy skills in reading, writing and, to a lesser extent, mathematics.

The perceptual-motor assessment and intervention model emphasized processes such as visual and auditory discrimination and perception, visual-motor coordination and integration, visual-auditory integration, and motor skills. Some of the models claimed direct relationships between neurological functioning and motor-perceptual awareness, leading to interventions such as walking on balance beams, vestibular stimulation from movement of the entire body in space, and precise large-motor exercises. Other PM-model variations placed more emphasis on pencil-and-paper tasks designed to improve visual-motor skills or auditory exercises to improve discrimination and recognition of sounds. All variations of PM assumed relationships between these skills and academic achievement.

The PL and PM models are used to identify intra-individual differences in processes presumed to underlie overall cognitive functioning and school achievement. The models generally are used with younger children (aged 2 to 10 years) who have been identified as delayed in cognitive development, or as experiencing difficulty in acquiring beginning literacy skills, especially reading. Intervention is usually guided by careful, standardized assessment of perceptual-motor or psycholinguistic strengths and weaknesses, followed by specific teaching activities designed to overcome weaknesses.

Clearly, the PL and PM models assume that basic cognitive processes could be identified accurately and improved through systematic instruction. Transfer to improved school achievement is assumed in a chain of logic that proceeds through the following assumptions: (a) PL or PM processes underlie and are a prerequisite to successful school learning; and (b) untreated PL- or PM-process deficits would remain as barriers to, and improved PL or PM processes will lead to, more successful achievement. Many educational programs for young children with learning problems continue to make these assumptions and emphasize PL training.

In addition to remedial programming for young children, the PL and PM models are highly influential in the diagnosis of specific learning disabilities (SLD). The most widely used SLD conceptual definition contains the following language, “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, written or spoken” (Mercer, King-Sears, & Mercer, 1990; Reschly & Gresham, 1989). This conceptual definition appears in U.S. law and is adopted in many states. Although, the classification criteria described in federal and state law typically do not require identification of PL- or PM-processing deficits as part of the diagnosis of SLD (Mercer et al., 1990), the PL and PM models continue to be highly influential regarding thought about the causes of SLD.

The PL and PM models dominated thought and practice in SLD until about 1980. Reviews of research on the assessment of PL processes and the outcomes of PL interventions began to appear in the mid-1970s, leading to diminished use. The Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities and various tests of PM processes were severely criticized on psychometric criteria, especially the low reliabilities on subtests that were used to diagnose weaknesses and prescribe interventions (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 1988). If the subtest reliabilities were low, then intra-individual strengths-and-weaknesses results were, by necessity, inaccurate and the prescriptions for interventions were based on faulty information. Even more devastating, though more controversial, were a number of separate reviews of the effects of PL and PM interventions. Hammill and Larsen (1974, 1978) and Newcomer, Larsen, and Hammill (1975), concluded that PL interventions had little positive effects on improving PL processes, and no documented positive effects on school achievement. The conclusions about the effects of PL interventions were disputed by Minskoff (1975), and later by Lund, Foster, and McCall-Perez (1978), in a series of increasingly heated debates with Hammill and his associates. Later examination of the same body of literature using the technique of meta-analysis (Glass, 1983) led to slightly more positive conclusions about interventions with some PL processes (verbal expressions, manual expression, visual closure, and auditory association) (Kavale, 1981,1990), but no solid evidence has been provided confirming that improved PL processes lead to improved academic achievement.

The treatment-validity evidence regarding the PM model is even more negative. Kavale and Mattson’s (1983) meta-analysis of some 180 studies led to the disappointing conclusion that PM interventions had no effect on PM processes and no identifiable beneficial effects on school achievement. PM assessment and training appears to be a waste of teachers’ and students’ valuable time (Kavale, 1990).

The PM and PL models have strong intuitive appeal. Most of the cognitive processes identified in these models are logically related to school achievement and overall cognitive functioning. Several possible explanations exist for the failure to unequivocally establish gains in either the processes or school achievement from PL and PM interventions. First, the theory simply may be wrong; that is, the PL and PM processes may not be essential for overall cognitive functioning and school achievement. If so, it would not be the first time that an intuitively appealing idea was incorrect. Second, the essential PL and PM processes may not be assessed accurately by current measures. Several authors have noted the psychometric deficiencies of measures in these areas. Third, the interventions may not be sufficiently powerful to produce the effects that would be required to produce PL or PM gains and improved school achievement. Regardless of which explanation(s) is/are correct, continued use of PL and PM models for assessment and intervention in clinical or educational settings is questionable.

I don't know if this is the right place or not.

Ok, I am in an Intro to Linguistics class (undergraduate) and I have this paper that I have to come up with a topic real soon.

It's some type of research paper that I have to come up with my own theory about linguistics.

I need help real bad. My teacher won't help me at all with choosing a topic, no list, no suggestions. She only approves or disapproves the topic. I have given her 9 topics so far and she has shot all of them down. I need a help finding a topic by Monday or else the highest grade I will make in the paper is a "B".

I have never written a paper like this before. I usually just grab resources and try to write what the people from the resources with my own words. I never made my own theory and I am new to linguistics. I only know a little bit about this subject. (Hello, this is an INTRO class)

The paper has to be something about linguistics. (Not Language Acquisition) I have to write a 9-12 pages about it with 10 resources. I am not asking people to find resources, I just need help finding a topic for my paper/ help making a new theory.

PLEASE HELP!!!!! 70% of my final grade is this paper.

Thanks in advance!

Can you try and do a paper on Psycholinguistics? Psycholinguistics is the study of psychological and neurological factors that enable humans to acquire and use language. Maybe try to do a topic on how we know to put words in a certain order to produce syntax? I'm sorry if this is no help I'm not completely clear on this topic, but good luck to you.

What is it that you don't understand about the topic? The study of psycholinguistics? Or what my teacher is asking me what to do?

I just don't know how to make up a theory. (One of the reasons why I'm not a science major :P)
I wasn't taught in grade school how to make my own theory about anything. Just memorizing things for tests and essays.

She said that psycholinguistics is ok, I just have to come up with some resources and come up with a specific new theory. I don't see this assignment fair because we are just starting to learn linguistics and she is asking to write a big paper about something that I have very little knowledge about it.

How does one come up with theories? I'm so stuck on this. I really need to pass this course, I can't skip it. I have studied a little bit of linguistics before this class and I really enjoy it, but she is making it harder than it really is and making it less enjoyable. I can't drop the class for various reasons and she is the only one teaching this course at my university.

Btw, thanks for responding.

I'm writing a research paper right now too, except on psychology. I'm not familiar with linguistics. What I just told you was from some background Wikipedia searching on linguistics :p

Do some background research on psycholinguistics, if that's what your sub-subject is. Look at the various aspects of it.

Coming up with a theory does sound difficult. So it's inventing a theory as opposed to researching a theory and adding your own insights?

Maybe you can research theories that interest you and then form your own arguments based off of that?

Sorry, this is my train of thought. Haha.

Regional variations in speech.
The language instinct (Pinker).
Nonverbal communication.
The meaning of silence.
Cultural linguistics.
Class variants.

Maybe these will help.

Have you come up with something?

It's very unusual for a lecturer to ask a student to come up with a new theory in an Intro class. Did you misinterpret the task? Were you asked to look for a theory and tasked to prove it instead?

If your lecturer did ask you to come up with a theory, you can do something that you can observe at your university... or at your dorm, at home, wherever you are spending most of your time.

It can be:
- Hand gestures of lecturers (something really easy to observe when you are attending class!)
- Foreign students and their assimilation into English based classes
- How body language betray sleepy students

Take it easy! Research and theory can be anything and everything and most of them are over rated!


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