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Russian Phonological Battery for the Assessment of Language Development

One area of work of the HSE Center for language and brain is the development of standardized linguistic tests and implementation them in speech therapy and clinical practice. These tests allow assessing the degree and nature of speech impairments. The first such project was the Russian Aphasia Test, which is now actively used by speech therapists when working with adult patients who have lost the full ability to speak or understand their native language as a result of a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Now a new diagnostic tool ZARYA (it is the Russian transliteration for Sound Analysis of the Russian Language) has been developed and standardized. This test allows to assess the features of phonological processing, especially for children with the developmental dyslexia.

Reading disorders in children occur as a result of several reasons, one of the leading types of deficiency is difficulty with the processing of phonemic information. This difficulty can arise at different stages of speech development and affect different levels. Thus, the ability to accurately perceive or reproduce the phonemes of the native language, to keep in memory the sequence of units of speech, to produce phonemic analysis and operations of various levels of complexity with phonemes can be impaired.

Our project is based on the experience of leading Russian neuropsychologists and speech therapists and takes into account a number of psycholinguistic parameters. Since there were no such detailed and standardized phonological batteries for the Russian language until now, we also used the foreign tools for the assessing of phonological processing (in particular, standardized tests for assessing the cognitive profile of children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties: Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing Second Edition (Wagner et al. 2013), Tests for Auditory Processing Disorders (Keith 2009)).

The new tool includes 7 phonological and 4 control language subtests and allows a detailed diagnosis of phonological impairment.


Phonological deficit and developmental dyslexia

  • Dyslexia – the selective inability to master reading skills while maintaining intelligence and developed oral speech – is one of the most common learning difficulties, which affects about 10% of children in Russia (Lalaeva 2002).
  • Along with many non-linguistic causes of dyslexia, the hypothesis of the deficit of phonological perception and analysis is central to the modern scientific discussion about dyslexia.
  • The successful implementation of reading requires the formation of stable associative relationships between graphemes (letters), phonemes (sound units of language) and articulemes (articulatory postures appropriate speech sounds). With insufficient development of phonemic representations and / or skills of phonemic analysis, the task of translating a sequence of graphic symbols into a sound sequence (reading) becomes difficult.
  • For the Russian language, despite the presence of certain tests (Akhutina, etc. 2016, Semenovich, 2002), comprehensive diagnostic tools (similar, for example, in English – Wagner et al. 2013) to identify the profile of phonological processing in children did not exist.
  • Nevertheless, it would become extremely popular 1) for the diagnosis of the phonological type of dyslexia with the already identified problems with reading in children and the orientation of speech therapy correction on the phonological locus of deficiency, 2) to assess the risk of dyslexia by phonological type in children who have not yet begun to learn reading.



Linguistically based approach

 
When we selected a stimulus material for the ZARIA test, we took into account a number of psycholinguistic parameters: 

  • age of acquisition of words,
  • word frequency,
  • length of words,
  • syllabic structure,
  • articulatory complexity.

 

Visual stimuli and relevant psycholinguistic parameters were taken from the stimuli database (Akinina et al. 2015, Akinina et al. 2014).

The types of tasks were chosen regarding the experience of speech therapists and neuropsychologists, including observations about the types of errors characteristics for children with learning difficulties and dyslexia.

 

Participants

Typically developing children: in the standardization of the test 108 good reading children 7-to-11 year old were involved (children from two schools in Moscow and one school in Volgograd; by the results of hearing tests and assessment of the level of non-verbal intelligence 18 children were excluded, for analyses were used the data of the remaining 90 participants).

The group of children with dyslexia: 60 children with dyslexia 7-to-11 years old also participated in the testing (the main clinical base is the Center of speech pathology and neurorehabilitation).

Svetlana Dorofeeva works with children at the Center of speech pathology and neurorehabilitation




Victoria Reshetnikova works with children at the school «Generation» in Volgograd



Victoria Reshetnikova works with children at the school «Generation» in Volgograd



Each participant was tested by a special audiometric system

* All photos of children are made and posted with the permission of the responsible persons


Phonological subtests

1. Phonemes discrimination (auditory differentiation of pairs of sounds presented in minimal contexts; iva-yva, vom-fom);

2. Lexical decision (differentiation of words and nonwords, specifically designed with phonotactic rules of Russian language and types of errors typical for children with dyslexia; sOmtse, bAlets, telefIn);

3. Nonwords repetition (kadrAt, pUlitsa, ferjOvka);

4. Detection the presence of sound in a word (g – kit, ch – vrach, y – kartIna);

5. Naming the first sound in a word (lev => [l’], igla => [i], dvornik => [d]);

6. Counting the number of sounds in a word (slon => 4, nosok => 5, lampochka => 8);

7. Replacing sound in pseudoword (to successfully accomplish this task a child needs to have complex skills: to hear and retain the sounds, to hold in memory the sequence of sounds in non-word, to find the target sound mentally, to make a replacement, to pronounce the final nonword aloud; replace the sound [b] on [p] – ba, replace the sound [k] at [k’] – nu-ka, replace the sound [l] to [v] – mi-mi-la).



Publications

Dorofeeva S., Reshetnikova V., Zyryanov A., Goranskaya D., Gordeeva E., Serebryakova M., Akhutina T., Dragoi O. Battery of tests to identify the features of phonological processing in Russian-speaking children: data for the typically developing children and the children with dyslexia. Eighth international conference on cognitive science: Abstracts. Svetlogorsk, 18-21 October 2018 / Resp. edited by A. K. Krylov, V. D. Soloviev. - Moscow: published by «Institute of psychology RAS», 2018. - P. 331-333.


Conferences


Dorofeeva S., Dragoy O. Oral report «The identification of linguistic deficits in children studying Russian language». XIX April international conference of the HSE. Section «Russian language in multilingual world». 13.04.2018, Moscow, Russia.

Dorofeeva S., Dragoy O. Poster report «Russian phonological battery (typically developing children)». International scientific school V Summer Neurolinguistics School. The Сentre for language and brain, HSE. 21-23.05.2018, Moscow, Russia.

Dorofeeva S., Dragoy O. Poster report «Russian phonological battery (data for typically developing and dyslexic children)». International scientific school 3rd Summer School ISOLDE «Infant Studies on Language Development in Europe», 11-15 June 2018, Potsdam, Germany.

Dorofeeva S., Dragoy O. Poster report «Russian phonological battery for assessment of Language Development». International scientific conference WoRLD: Workshop on Reading, Language and Deafness. The Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language. 18-20.10.2018, San Sebastian, Spain.

Dorofeeva S., Reshetnikova V., Zyryanov S., Goranskaya D., Gordeeva E., Serebryakova M., Akhutina T., Dragoy O. Poster presentation «A battery of tests to identify the characteristics of phonological processing in Russian-speaking children: data for typically developing children and children with developmental dyslexia». VIII International conference on cognitive science, 18-21 October 2018, Svetlogorsk, Russia.



Acknowledgements

We thank all the children, their parents, the administration of the participating schools, as well as the Center for speech pathology and neurorehabilitation and the Association of parents and children with dyslexia for their confidence and participating in the study!
 

The study was performed with the financial support of RFBR, research project No. 17-29-09122. Head - Dragoy Olga.


 

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