Facilitating pragmatic skills through role-play in learners with language learning disability

S Afr J Commun Disord. 2017 Jul 26;64(1):e1-e12. doi: 10.4102/sajcd.v64i1.187.


Background: Role-based learning involves the process whereby learners acquire skills, knowledge and understanding through the assumption of roles within real-life settings. Role-play holds potential as an effective learning strategy for children; however, there is limited research on the use of role-play as a therapy method within the field of speech-language pathology. Children with language learning disability (LLD) typically present with difficulties in social communication, which can negatively affect their social and academic achievement.

Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of role-play as a therapy approach targeting the pragmatic skills of stylistic variation and requesting for clarification in learners with LLD.

Method: The use of combined positivist and interpretivist paradigms allowed for the implementation of an embedded mixed methods design. An experimental pretest-posttest design was implemented. Eight participants, who were learners with a diagnosis of LLD, were purposefully selected. Data collection was conducted over five phases, utilising the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (4th Ed.) Pragmatics Profile, discourse completion tasks, session plans and session records. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and were supplemented by qualitative data from session records.

Results: Results revealed improvements in stylistic variation and requesting for clarification post role-play intervention, with minimal changes in the control group. Limitations of the study have been reported for consideration when interpreting results.

Conclusion: Role-play as a therapy approach targeting two pragmatic skills, stylistic variation and requesting for clarification, was found to be beneficial for learners with LLD. Recommendations for the implementation of role-play as a therapy approach were made.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Language*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Development Disorders / therapy*
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology
  • Learning Disabilities / therapy*
  • Learning*
  • Motivation
  • Role Playing*
  • Social Behavior
  • Speech-Language Pathology / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome