Infographics, Slides, and Links


Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

DLD is a persistent type of speech, language and communication need, often diagnosed in childhood, with no obvious cause. It is an invisible, under-diagnosed condition that affects 7% of children. Those with DLD have difficulty understanding spoken/written language and learning complex vocabulary. They may speak in short, ungrammatical sentences, and are often victims of bullying. Two out of thirty children have DLD — that’s roughly two children in every classroom, which adds up to 5-7 million children in the US alone.

Teaching Cognitive Verbs Boosts Complement Clause Input

Cognitive verbs (like think, know, and remember) are used in complex sentences more frequently than are action verbs (like write, compare, and practice) — this is called verb bias. In particular, verbs of cognition, desire, perception, and communication are biased to show up with complement clauses. When Head Start teachers were asked to teach some of these verbs, their use of complex sentences in the classroom naturally increased (Van Horne, Curran, & Hall, 2017).

Constructional Grounding and Constructional Conspiracy

Constructional Grounding: Teach the simpler sentence structures that build up to the final abstract sentence frame. Grounding constructions can help kids see that the meaning is possible within a simpler/related syntactic frame — focus on meaning.

Constructional Conspiracy: Teach the earlier learned, similar sentence structures that can then ‘gang up’ to support acquisition of the full or more abstract form. Conspirators can help kids develop pieces of the syntactic frame that can be deployed for support — focus on syntactic components.

See Gibson (1998), Johnson (2001), Abbot-Smith & Behrens (2006), and Riches (2013) for more info.

Implicit and Explicit Grammar Treatments

Implicit Treatments: Enhanced Input + Attentive Listening

  • Focused Stimulation/Recasts
  • Auditory Bombardment
  • Syntax Stories
  • Use a Hook: Toy Talk
  • Cognitive Verbs

Explicit Treatments: Meta Skills + Rules + Production Practice

  • Shape Coding/Meta Taal
  • Elicited Imitation/Production
  • Sentence Combining
  • Explicit Rule Instruction

Using Recast Intervention for Grammatical Targets

Recast: correct or change the child’s utterance to include the language target. For example:

Child: Him run. So fast!
Clinician: Yeah, he is running fast!

It takes 10-20 visits of 30-60 minutes with 1 recast/minute for a child to obtain a 1 SD gain on a given target — that’s 300-1000 exposures per grammatical target.


  • One target at a time — see Nye, Foster, & Seaman, 1987
  • Variety is the spice of life
  • Works for any language target
  • Be grammatical
  • Anybody can do it

Structuring the Input

Stability and variability are both important in effective language treatment.


  • Repeat pronouns
  • Pick one target
  • Repetition helps


  • Vary subject and verb
  • Change up the verb
  • Choose hard verbs


Slides from ASHA 2018

SLI, PLI, LLD, or DLD? A debate on terminology in child language research programs
By Amanda Owen Van Horne, Susan Ebbels, Sean Redmond, and Liza Finestack

Slides from DSHA 2017

Helping Little Kids Say Big Sentences
By Amanda Owen Van Horne and Maura Curran