Story-Telling More Difficult for Brain-Injured Children: Study

THURSDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) — Children with brain injuries tend to be able to acquire the same language abilities as other children but have greater difficulty developing story-telling skills, a new study shows.

“Our findings suggest that there may be limitations to the remarkable flexibility for language functions displayed by children with brain injuries,” study author and University of Chicago researcher Ozlem Ece Demir said in a university news release.

The study included a control group of 20 typically developing children and 11 children with brain lesions (areas of damaged tissue) that are mainly caused by a stroke. This type of brain injury occurs in about one in 4,000 infants.

All the children, whose median age was 6, were asked to tell a story after they were given a line that suggested a narrative, such as, “Once there was a little boy named Alan who had many different kinds of toys.” As the children told their story, they were prompted by questions such as “anything else?” until they said they were done.

Compared to those in the control group, the children with brain injuries produced shorter and less complex stories, even though they had similar vocabulary and sentence comprehension abilities.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Developmental Science.

Story-telling is a more complex activity than learning words and sentence structure because it requires flexibility in using words. That means that story-telling may be more likely to be affected by developmental delays than other areas of language learning, the researchers explained.

Previous research has shown that parents can improve the story-telling skills of children by engaging them in conversations around narratives. The new findings add to evidence suggesting that parents of children with brain injuries should spend extra time helping their children create narratives during their preschool years, Demir and colleagues said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about speech and language development.