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Teaching vocabulary to adolescents with language disorder: perspectives from teachers and speech and language therapists

Lowe, H., Henry, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-5422-4358, Wallinger, J. & Joffe, V. (2022). Teaching vocabulary to adolescents with language disorder: perspectives from teachers and speech and language therapists. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, doi: 10.1177/02656590211064541


Children with language disorder frequently experience difficulties with vocabulary acquisition, and these difficulties often persist into adolescence. The literature indicates that clinical studies tend to investigate phonological-semantic approaches, whereas educational studies focus on the derivation of meaning within a literacy context. Little is known about whether the practices of Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) and teachers reflect these findings from the literature.

The current paper reports on a survey which gathered information from SLTs and Mainstream Secondary School Teachers (MSSTs), about their current practice concerning vocabulary support for adolescents, aged 11 – 16, who have language disorder. An online questionnaire was distributed through teaching and speech and language therapy professional networks. The aim of the study was to establish which specific strategies were used in practice by SLTs and MSSTs to teach vocabulary to adolescents with language disorder, and which strategies were the most effective.

Responses were obtained from 127 SLTs and 47 MSSTs in the UK. SLTs were more likely than MSSTs to teach phonological awareness and semantic feature analysis as strategies for developing vocabulary skills. Both professions used literacy-related strategies as well as strategies for independent word learning such as the derivation of meaning from morphology and context. Increased joint working and training opportunities would further develop the knowledge and skills of both MSSTs and SLTs, enabling theoretically-grounded and relevant vocabulary support for this group of adolescents.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Vocabulary teaching, intervention, adolescence, secondary schools
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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