A multi-study examination of the role of repeated spaced retrieval in the word learning of children with developmental language disorder

Laurence B. Leonard, Sharon L. Christ, Patricia Deevy, Jeffrey D. Karpicke, Christine Weber, Eileen Haebig, Justin B. Kueser, Sofía Souto, Windi Krok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Many children with developmental language disorders (DLD) have well-documented weaknesses in vocabulary. In recent years, investigators have explored the nature of these weaknesses through the use of novel word learning paradigms. These studies have begun to uncover specific areas of difficulty and have provided hints about possible intervention strategies that might help these children learn words more accurately and efficiently. Among the studies of this type are those that incorporate repeated spaced retrieval activities in the learning procedures. Methods: In this study, we examined the data from four of these studies that employed the same types of participants (4- and 5-year-old children with DLD and same-age children with typical language development), research design, and outcome measures. The studies differed primarily in the type of learning condition that was being compared to a spaced retrieval condition. A mixed-effects modeling framework was used, enabling the data from the four studies and different outcome measures to be aggregated. Results: Across the studies, more words in the repeated spaced retrieval condition were recalled than those in the comparison conditions. This was true regardless of outcome measure. Children with typical language development recalled more words than the children with DLD. Both groups benefited from spaced retrieval, though effects were larger for the group with DLD. Children recalled words as accurately 1 week after learning as they did at the 5-min mark; the two groups were essentially identical in this respect. Conclusions: Overall, the findings support the continued refinement of these types of repeated spaced retrieval procedures, as they may have potential to serve as effective approaches to intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Developmental language disorder
  • Language development
  • Retrieval
  • Specific language impairment
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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