School-age children with specific language impairment (SLI) and age-matched controls were tested for immediate recall of digits presented visually, auditorily, or audiovisually. Recall tasks compared speaking and pointing response modalities. Each participant was tested at a level that was consistent with her or his auditory short-term memory span. Traditional effects of primacy, recency, and modality (an auditory recall advantage) were obtained for both groups. The groups performed similarly when audiovisual stimuli were paired with a spoken response, but children with SLI had smaller recency effects together with an unusually poor recall when visually presented items were paired with a pointing response. Such results cannot be explained on the basis of an auditory or speech deficit per se, and suggest that children with SLI have difficulty either retaining or using phonological codes, or both, during tasks that require multiple mental operations. Capacity limitations, involving the rapid decay of phonological representations and/or performance limitations related to the use of less demanding and less effective coding and retrieval strategies, could have contributed to the working memory deficiencies in the children with SLI.
- Information Processing,
- Specific Language Impairment,
- Phonological Coding,
- Capacity Limitations,
- Retrieval Strategies