Publications by authors named "Cristina Caselli"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Prediction and persistence of late talking: A study of Italian toddlers at 29 and 34 months.

Res Dev Disabil 2018 Apr 24;75:40-48. Epub 2018 Feb 24.

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, Via Nomentana 56, 0186, Rome, Italy.

This study analyzed the communicative, linguistic and symbolic skills in Italian Late Talking (LT) toddlers. Thirty-five participants were identified through a language-screening program at 29 months by using the Italian version of MB-CDI W&S Short Form. Cognitive, communicative and linguistic skills were evaluated 5 later, with indirect and direct tools. The MB-CDI WS Short Form revealed, in LT children, weakness in gesture production, decontextualized comprehension, verbal imitation, symbolic play, and phonological accuracy. Our results confirmed lexical size at 29 months is the predictive factor to identify language delay at 34 months. The clinical assessment at 34 months confirmed that 89% of the LT children had a vocabulary size below the 10th percentile on the MB-CDI Complete Form. On a structured task, LT children showed lexical comprehension more preserved than lexical production, and more advanced skills in nouns than in predicates. Weakness in socioconversational abilities emerged. Correlation among maternal education, expressive vocabulary and socio-conversational competence in LT children was evidenced. Strong association among cognitive, communicative and linguistic skills were documented.
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April 2018

Noun and predicate comprehension/production and gestures in extremely preterm children at two years of age: Are they delayed?

J Commun Disord 2015 Nov-Dec;58:126-42. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, Italy.

Unlabelled: Extremely low gestational age (ELGA, GA<28 weeks) preterm children are at high risk for linguistic impairments; however, their lexical comprehension and production as well as lexical categories in their early language acquisition have not been specifically examined via direct tools. Our study examines lexical comprehension and production as well as gestural production in ELGA children by focusing on noun and predicate acquisition. Forty monolingual ELGA children (mean GA of 26.7 weeks) and 40 full-term (FT) children were assessed at two years of corrected chronological age (CCA) using a test of noun and predicate comprehension and production (PiNG) and the Italian MB-CDI. Noun comprehension and production were delayed in ELGA compared with FT children, as documented by the low number of correct responses and the large number of errors, i.e., incorrect responses and no-response items, and by the types of incorrect responses, i.e., fewer semantically related responses, in noun production. Regarding predicate comprehension and production, a higher frequency of no responses was reported by ELGA children and these children also presented a lower frequency of bimodal spoken-gestural responses in predicate production than FT children. A delayed vocabulary size as demonstrated by the MB-CDI, was exhibited by one-fourth of the ELGA children, who were also unable to complete the predicate subtest. These findings highlight that noun comprehension and production are delayed in ELGA children at two years of CCA and are the most important indexes for the direct evaluation of their lexical abilities and delay. The types of incorrect responses and bimodal spoken-gestural responses were proven to be useful indexes for evaluating the noun and predicate level of acquisition and to plan early focused interventions.

Learning Outcomes: After reading this manuscript, the reader will understand (a) the differences in noun and predicate comprehension and production between ELGA and FT children and the indexes of lexical delays exhibited by ELGA children at 2;0 (CCA); (b) the relevance of evaluating errors (incorrect response and no response), the types of incorrect responses (semantically related and unrelated) and the modality of the responses (unimodal spoken and bimodal spoken-gestural) in noun and predicate production to understand the difficulties experienced by ELGA children in representing and expressing meanings; and (c) the need to plan specific interventions to support spoken and gestural modalities in lexical comprehension and production in ELGA children by focusing on noun and predicate acquisition.
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September 2016

Do healthy preterm children need neuropsychological follow-up? Preschool outcomes compared with term peers.

Dev Med Child Neurol 2010 Oct 16;52(10):955-61. Epub 2010 Aug 16.

Unit of Clinical Psychology, Department of Neurosciences, Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital, Rome, Italy.

Aim: the aim of this study was to determine neuropsychological performance (possibly predictive of academic difficulties) and its relationship with cognitive development and maternal education in healthy preterm children of preschool age and age-matched comparison children born at term.

Method: a total of 35 infants who were born at less than 33 weeks' gestational age and who were free from major neurosensory disability (16 males, 19 females; mean gestational age 29.4wk, SD 2.2wk; mean birthweight 1257g, SD 327g) and 50 term-born comparison children (25 males, 25 females; mean birthweight 3459g, SD 585g) were assessed at 4 years of age. Cognition was measured using the Griffiths Mental Development scales while neuropsychological abilities (language, short-term memory, visual-motor and constructive spatial abilities, and visual processing) were assessed using standardized tests. Multivariable regression analysis was used to explore the effects of preterm birth and sociodemographic factors on cognition, and to adjust neuropsychological scores for cognitive level and maternal education.

Results: the mean total Griffiths score was significantly lower in preterm than in term children (97.4 vs 103.4; p<0.001). Factors associated with higher Griffiths score were maternal university education (β=6.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.7-11.7) and having older siblings or a twin (β=4.0; 95% CI 0.5-7.6). At neuropsychological assessment, preterm children scored significantly lower than term comparison children in all tests except lexical production (Boston Naming Test) and visual-processing accuracy. After adjustment for cognitive level and maternal education, differences remained statistically significant for verbal fluency (p<0.05) and comprehension, short-term memory, and spatial abilities (p<0.01).

Interpretation: neuropsychological follow-up is also recommended for healthy very preterm children to identify strengths and challenges before school entry, and to plan interventions aimed at maximizing academic success.
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October 2010

Communicative and linguistic development in preterm children: a longitudinal study from 12 to 24 months.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2010 Mar-Apr;45(2):162-73

School of Applied Psychosocial Studies, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK.

Background: Research conducted on preterm children's linguistic skills has provided varying pictures, and the question of whether and to what extent preterm children are delayed in early language acquisition remains largely unresolved.

Aims: To examine communicative and linguistic development during the second year in a group of Italian children born prematurely using the 'Primo Vocabolario del Bambino' (PVB), the Italian version of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory. The primary goal was to compare action/gesture production, word comprehension, and word production, and the relationship between these three domains in preterm children and to normative data obtained from a large sample of Italian children born at term. A second aim was to address the longstanding debate regarding the use of chronological versus corrected gestational age in the assessment of preterm children's abilities.

Methods & Procedures: Parents of twelve preterm children completed the PVB questionnaire at five age points during the children's second year, and scores were compared with those from a normative sample of full-term children and those of 59 full-term children selected as a control group from the normative sample for the PVB.

Outcomes & Results: Preterm children exhibited a delay in all three aspects of communication and language. In particular, communicative-linguistic age tended to lag approximately 3 months behind chronological age when children were between the ages of 12 and 24 months. When chronological age was used, preterm children's percentile scores for all three components of communication and language fell within the lower limits of the normal range, while scores calculated using corrected age either fell at or above the 50th percentile.

Conclusions & Implications: Findings suggest that despite the significant biological risk engendered by premature birth, early communicative and linguistic development appears to proceed in a relatively robust fashion among preterm children, with tight relations across communicative domains as in full-term children. Employing both chronological and corrected gestational age criteria in the evaluation of preterm children's abilities may provide important information about their progress in language acquisition. This may be especially important during the initial stages of communicative and linguistic development, inasmuch as comparisons of the two sets of scores may provide clinicians with a way to distinguish children who may be at risk for language problems from those who may be expected to progress normally.
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September 2013

Lexical and grammatical abilities in deaf Italian preschoolers: the role of duration of formal language experience.

J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ 2009 5;14(1):63-75. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Dipartimento di Psicologia Dinamica e Clinica, Università di Roma Sapienza, Via Nomentana, 56 00161 Rome, Italy.

We evaluated language development in deaf Italian preschoolers with hearing parents, taking into account the duration of formal language experience (i.e., the time elapsed since wearing a hearing aid and beginning language education) and different methods of language education. Twenty deaf children were matched with 20 hearing children for age and with another 20 hearing children for duration of experience. Deaf children showed a significant delay in both vocabulary and grammar when compared to same-age hearing children yet a similar development compared to hearing children matched for duration of formal language experience. The delay in linguistic development could be attributable to shorter formal language experience and not to deafness itself. Deaf children exposed to spoken language accompanied by signs tended to understand and produce more words than children exposed only to spoken language. We suggest that deaf children be evaluated based on their linguistic experience and cognitive and communicative potential.
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March 2009

Sentence repetition as a measure of early grammatical development in Italian.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2007 Mar-Apr;42(2):187-208

University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.

Background: Research on language acquisition and disorders highlights the need to evaluate the early phases of language development for the early identification of children with language problems (screening), and to determine the nature and severity of language disorders (diagnosis).

Aims: The paper presents a new Sentence Repetition Task developed for evaluating language abilities in Italian pre-schoolers. Two studies are reported. The first is aimed at evaluating the power of the Sentence Repetition Task in discriminating the developmental changes in children's capacity to repeat sentences of different length and morphosyntactic complexity. Moreover, the test-retest reliability was assessed. The second study explored the relationship between the Sentence Repetition Task, free speech and verbal memory span.

Methods & Procedures: The test included 27 sentences of different length and complexity. Each sentence was accompanied with a picture reproducing its global meaning. In Study 1, the Sentence Repetition Task was administrated to 100 middle- and lower-class children (balanced for gender) between 2 and 4 years with a test-retest design. Test results were submitted to univariate analysis of variance, using five age levels as independent variables. To evaluate the test reliability, test-retest correlational analyses were conducted. In Study 2, 25 middle- and lower-class children between 2 and 4 years of age, balanced for age and gender, participated. The performance of the children on the repetition test was compared with their spontaneous language data. Moreover, the same children received a Verbal Memory Span test, consisting of a list of ten strings of different number of words. Correlational analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationships between the Sentence Repetition Task, free speech and the Verbal Memory Span test.

Outcomes & Results: Study 1 showed that 2-year-old children's repeated sentences were highly telegraphic. Between the age of 2.0 and 2.6 the mean length of utterance in the Sentence Repetition Task grew from approximately two to three words, and the number of omissions of articles, prepositions and modifiers significantly decreased. After 3.0 years old, omissions of free function words practically disappeared. The results of Study 2 showed that mean length of utterance, omission of articles and use of the verbs in the Sentence Repetition Task correlated with the same measures of the free speech. Moreover, positive correlations were found between verbal memory span and performance of both the repetition task and the free speech.

Conclusions: Results demonstrate that the repetition test is reliable, discriminates between the different age groups examined, highlights the relevant developmental stages described in the literature, and provides a reliable measure of the mean length of utterance.
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September 2007

Clinical markers for specific language impairment in Italian: The contribution of clitics and non-word repetition.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2006 Nov-Dec;41(6):695-712

Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione del CNR, Padua, Italy.

Background: The discovery of clinical markers for specific language impairment (SLI) in children can assist in the accurate identification of children with this disorder, and in a description of the disorder's phenotype for genetic study. One challenge to this type of research is the fact that languages vary in the most salient symptoms of SLI. This study focuses on Italian.

Aims: To determine whether three measures--the use of third-person plural inflections, the use of direct-object clitics and non-word repetition--are successful in distinguishing Italian-speaking children with SLI from their typically developing peers.

Methods & Procedures: Eleven preschool-aged children with SLI, 11 same-age typically developing peers and 11 younger typically developing children participated in the study. The third-person plural inflection and direct-object clitic tasks required the children to describe drawings in response to prompts provided by the examiner. In the non-word repetition task, the children repeated non-words ranging from one to four syllables in length.

Outcomes & Results: All three measures proved successful either singly or in combination, with direct-object clitics and non-word repetition showing the highest sensitivity and specificity.

Conclusions: Additional research should be pursued to replicate and extend these findings. Along with the potential clinical value of the findings, the results suggest that difficulties with non-final weak syllables--a problem that would adversely affect all three measures--may be an important part of the SLI profile in Italian.
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June 2007

Gesture and speech in maternal input to children with Down's syndrome.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2006 May-Jun;41(3):235-51

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.

Background: Despite recent interest in relationships between maternal gesture and speech and communicative development in typically developing (TD) children, little work has examined either speech or gesture in mothers of children with Down's syndrome (DS).

Aims: To compare aspects of speech and gesture production by mothers of children with DS with that of mothers of TD children.

Methods & Procedures: Participants were five mothers of children with DS (mean chronological age (CA) = 47.6 months; mean mental age (MA) = 22.4 months) and five mothers of TD children. To equate for expressive language ability, children in the TD and DS groups were individually matched on the basis of: (1) gender; (2) correspondence between the TD child's chronological age and the DS child's language age; and (3) observed expressive vocabulary size. Each mother-child dyad was videotaped for approximately 30 min during free play. Data analyses focused on: (1) the number and types (speech only, gesture only, mixed) of maternal utterances; (2) the gesture types (deictic, iconic, conventional, emphatic); and (3) for mixed utterances, the structure and the temporal patterning of spoken and gestured components.

Outcomes & Results: Relative to mothers of TD children, mothers of children with DS produced significantly fewer utterances overall, but the distribution of utterance types did not differ between the two groups. Relative to mothers of TD children, mothers of children with DS used proportionately more deictic gestures and made more frequent use of showing. Mothers of TD children produced more pointing gestures. Finally, mothers of children with DS produced a significantly higher proportion of utterances consisting of a single gesture and a single verbal utterance; in contrast to mothers of TD children, more complex structures (one gesture with multiple verbal utterances, one verbal utterance with multiple gestures) were never observed. Within the category of utterances consisting of a gesture and a single verbal utterance, mothers of children with DS tended to produce gestures that were held throughout the complete verbal utterance, while the gestures of mothers of TD children tended to co-occur with only a portion of the utterance.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that mothers of children with DS adjust their communication to the developmental status of their child. Results are discussed in terms of the role of gesture in maternal communication and in the regulation of mother-child interaction.
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September 2006

Relationship between gestures and words in children with Down's syndrome and typically developing children in the early stages of communicative development.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2003 Apr-Jun;38(2):179-97

Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.

Background: Previous research has emphasized the importance of gesture in early communicative development. These studies have reported that gestures are used frequently during the first two years of life and may play a transitional role in the language acquisition process. Although there are now numerous descriptions of the relationship between gesture and the developing language system in typically-developing (TD) children, relatively little is known about the nature and early development of the gesture-language system in children with developmental disorders involving specific profiles of language delay and/or impairment.

Primary Objective: The aim of this study is to compare early word and gesture use in children with DS and in typically-developing children to investigate potential differences in the relationship between gestural and verbal communication in early language development.

Methods And Procedures: Ten children from upper-middle class families participated in the study. The five children with DS (3 boys and 2 girls) had an average chronological age of 47.6 months, an average mental age of 22.4 months, and an average language age of 18 months. Each child with DS was matched to a typically developing child on the basis of gender, language age, and observed expressive vocabulary size. Children were videotaped for 30 minutes as they interacted spontaneously with their mothers. All communicative and intelligible gestures and words produced by the children were transcribed from the videotapes. Data analyses focused on: a) overall production of gestures and words (i.e., gesture and word tokens); b) the size of children's gestural and verbal repertoires (i.e., gesture and word types); and c) production and informational content of gesture-word combinations.

Main Outcomes And Results: Although children with DS had significantly smaller gestural repertoires than their language age-matched peers, there was no reliable difference between the two groups in the overall use of gesture. In addition, with DS produced two-element combinations (primarily gesture-word combinations) and did so at a rate comparable to that observed among their TD counterparts. However, no two-word combinations were observed among children with DS, and there were also group differences in the information contained in children's gesture-word combinations.

Conclusions: Taken together, these findings suggest that in addition to the well-documented global delays in early communicative development, children with DS may exhibit additional pockets of delay, specifically in making the transition from one- to two-word speech. Results are further discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the organization of the developing gesture-language system and for the assessment of gesture in young children with communicative delays and disorders.
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June 2003

Early linguistic abilities of Italian children with Williams syndrome.

Dev Neuropsychol 2003 ;23(1-2):33-58

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technology, National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy.

Previous studies of linguistic and memory abilities in Italian-speaking children with Williams syndrome (WS) and Down syndrome (DS)are briefly reviewed. New data on linguistic performance of 6 Italian children with WS between 3 and 6 years of age are presented and compared with data on linguistic performance of 6 children with DS selected from a larger sample and matched for chronological age and vocabulary size and of 6 typically developing (TD) younger children matched for mental age and vocabulary size. The language measures also included a parent report of early phrase structure, a naming test, and a sentence repetition task. Analyses revealed that the 3 groups of children were at the same productive vocabulary level, but showed different patterns in sentence production and repetition. Children with WS produced more complete sentences, similar to TD children at the same vocabulary size, whereas children with DS produced more telegraphic and incomplete sentences. The difference between children with DS and those with WS was more marked on the repetition task, suggesting that phonological short-term memory may play a greater role when sentence production is measured through repetition. In addition, qualitative analysis of errors produced in the repetition test revealed interesting differences among the 3 groups. These results from younger children confirm and extend previous findings with older children and adolescents with WS. They further suggest that the apparently spared linguistic abilities of children with WS could emerge as an artifact of comparisons made to children with DS, whose sentence production competence is more compromised relative to other verbal and nonverbal abilities.
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July 2003

Specific language impairment in Italian: the first steps in the search for a clinical marker.

Int J Lang Commun Disord 2002 Apr-Jun;37(2):77-93

Centro di Fonetica, CNR, Padua, Italy.

Recent studies of children with specific language impairment (SLI) have identified language measures that seem quite accurate in distinguishing preschool-age children with SLI from their normally developing peers. However, the studies have focussed exclusively on English, and it is clear from the literature that the SLI profile varies between languages. This paper reports on three studies designed to assess the utility of particular language measures for Italian. In the first two studies, it was found that a composite measure based on the use of definite singular articles and third-person plural inflections showed good sensitivity and specificity in distinguishing Italian-speaking children with SLI from their typically developing peers. The third study showed that the same composite can be applied successfully to individual cases of SLI. Some of the additional steps needed to evaluate this composite measure are discussed.
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June 2002