Purpose: This study investigated the attentional tendencies of preschool children with developmental language disorder (DLD) and their typical language (TL) peers during a word learning task to examine what visual properties of novel objects capture their attention.
Method: Twelve children with DLD and 12 children with TL completed a novel name extension task in which they selected which of three visual characteristics of referent objects (i.e., movement, color, pattern) was relevant during novel word-novel referent pairings. No visual feature was more relevant than the others; consequently, there were no correct and no incorrect responses.
Results: Children with DLD were systematically different from their TL peers in which visual features of objects they attended to during nonword-novel referent pairings in that they selected movement as the relevant feature of novel objects more often than TL children. There was also a significant negative correlation between chronological age and the propensity for movement selections.
Conclusions: In most cases, word learning involves mapping the auditory signal onto visual information. Identifying what children with DLD naturally attend to when exposed to novel word-novel referent pairings is an important first step in order to better understand how to design effective and efficient word learning interventions with this population.