UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Comprehension of datives & ‘wh’ comparative questions


Therapist researchers:Susan Ebbels (Moor House School)
FunderMoor House School, Surrey, UK

Three pupils with severe receptive and expressive difficulties but typical visual perceptual skills who made significant progress with passives and wh-questions in the Ebbels and van der Lely (2001) study participated. Their comprehension of the dative construction (e.g., the boy is giving the girl the rabbit) and ‘wh’ comparative questions (e.g., what is bigger than a cat? vs. what is a cat bigger than?) were tested using an acting out task initially once a week for four weeks and then once every school term for a year prior to therapy on these structures starting (during the Ebbels & van der Lely, 2001 study). All three received intervention on datives, but only two received intervention for wh-comparatives due to a change of therapist. Two of the three participants showed significant progress in their comprehension of dative constructions. The third was hypothesised to have additional short-term memory difficulties which made progress on this area more difficult, due to the need to remember the order of three key nouns. However, this participant made significant progress in comprehension of ‘wh’ comparative questions as did the other participant who was taught this structure.


Ebbels, S.H. (2007). Teaching grammar to school-aged children with Specific Language Impairment using Shape Coding. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 23, 67-93.