Two hands holding pieces of a puzzle attempting to put it together.

What is this project about?

Word learning difficulties are a common clinical manifestation of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), despite not always being the most evident. This affects the child’s quality of life by impacting significantly the socioemotional development as well as educational success during the school years.

The acquisition of new words is a complex multifaceted process that relies on previously stored linguistic knowledge and processing abilities at the same time; therefore, both these aspects should be targeted by an intervention aiming to improve a deficit in word learning.

For these reasons the current study will investigate combining an existing lexical evidence-based intervention with verbal working memory training to expand linguistic knowledge and improve processing efficiency for children with DLD. The rationale is that adding a working memory training will improve the benefits of the lexical intervention.

The project also involved a meta-analysis on word learning in children with DLD, conducted prior to the clinical study. The meta-analysis allowed us to explore which is the most challenging stage, whether working memory plays a role during the process of acquiring new words and whether the characteristics of the stimuli have an impact on children’s ability. The findings informed the assessment protocol used to test the intervention.

Who is involved?

This study was fully funded by the University of Reading. It is the result of a collaboration between Paola Calabrese, Emma Pagnamenta and Vesna Stojanovik. The meta-analysis was conducted in collaboration with Nick Hedger and Katherine Pritchard (University of Reading).

Lead contact

Paola Calabrese at