Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Teaching a picture language to a non-speaking retarded boy

Murphy, Glynis H. (1977) Teaching a picture language to a non-speaking retarded boy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 15 (2). pp. 198-201. ISSN 0005-7967. (doi:10.1016/0005-7967(77)90107-3) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:32103)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
Official URL:


In recent years numerous operant language training programmes have been designed for teaching both receptive and expressive language to autistic and retarded children (e.g. Bricker and Bricker. 1970a; Bricker and Bricker, 1970b; Lovaas, 1968; Sloane et al, 1968). There have been suggestions that the content of such programmes should be to some extent dictated by the findings of psycholinguists, while the methods be designed along behaviour modification lines (Lynch and Bricker, 1972; Miller and Yoder, 1972). Certainly operant programmes have been shown to produce some improvement of language function in autistic and retarded children (Bricker and Bricker. 1970a; Sloane et al, 1968; Lovaas. 1968; Guesset al, 1968); but the problem of whether all retarded children can be taught some language by these means has not been tackled. Psycholinguists, following Chomsky (Chomsky, 1965) maintain that the development of language in children is dependent on the language acquisition device, or LAD. Unfortunately there are no independent means of determining the presence of LAD in a child, so that relating a child's inability to use language to the absence of LAD becomes a circular argument.

It frequently seems to be assumed that, provided no perceptual deficits are present, language acquisition is as difficult in one medium as in another. Individuals who are deaf and retarded have been taught sign language with some success (Berger, 1972; Cornforth et al, 1974), and retarded children who are non-speaking have been taught symbolic languages (Bliss symbols in Vanderheiden et al, 1975; Premack symbols in Hollis and Carrier, 1975, and Hodges, 1976). It is unclear, however, whether those learning symbolic languages, but having no gross physical or perceptual handicap, could have learnt sign language or even spoken language with an equivalent method of training. The present study is a report of a retarded boy with unreliable hearing (which ruled out spoken language), who seemed unable to learn (receptive or expressive) sign language after extensive operant training, but who rapidly acquired a limited symbolic “language” using an identical training method. The symbols used were pictorial representations of the objects (cf. Bliss and Premack symbols).

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/0005-7967(77)90107-3
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV1568 Disability studies
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Depositing User: Jo Ruffels
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2012 10:13 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.