Phonological awareness intervention for verbal working memory skills in school-age children with specific language impairment and concomitant word reading difficulties

2014 IJRSLL – Volume 3 Issue 4


Park, Jungjun*
Baylor University, United States (

Ritter, Michaela
Baylor University, United States (

Lombardino, Linda
University of Florida, United States (

Wiseheart, Rebecca
St. John’s University, United States (

Sherman, Susan
Baylor University, United States (


This exploratory investigation examined the effects of explicit phonological awareness intervention on each subcomponent of Baddeley’s verbal working memory model. Fifty school-age children with specific language impairment (SLI) and concurrent deficits in word reading were randomly assigned to either an experimental (n=25) or a control group (n = 25). Children in both groups received individual traditional language intervention for four, 1 hour sessions each week for 4 weeks (16 hrs). The experimental group received an additional 20 min of phonological awareness intervention each day (5.3 hrs). Participants in the experimental group significantly outperformed the children in the control group across all verbal working memory measures. The strongest effects were found for the digit recall and word list recall subtests, which were used to assess the verbal short-term memory component of the model (i.e., phonological loop). The next largest effect sizes were reported for the subtests of the verbal working memory functioning (i.e., phonological loop and central executive). The smallest change was found on the recalling sentences subtest, which was chosen to represent the episodic buffer component. These results suggest that school-age children with SLI and concomitant word-reading difficulties in second through third grade who receive explicit phonological awareness intervention can make significant gains on untrained verbal working memory skills in a relatively short period of time which underscores the importance of phonological awareness intervention beyond first grade.

Keywords: specific language impairment (SLI); reading deficit; phonological loop; central executive; episodic buffer; school-age children



*Corresponding Author