Quality, Not Quantity, of Child Spatial Talk May Predict Spatial Skills Young children’s understanding of their physical environment, compared with how many spatial vocabulary words they know, may better predict overall spatial abilities, finds a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Stronger spatial skills in children are linked to better early math skills—which can help predict future interest in science, ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   February 01, 2017
Quality, Not Quantity, of Child Spatial Talk May Predict Spatial Skills
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Development / Professional Issues & Training / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   February 01, 2017
Quality, Not Quantity, of Child Spatial Talk May Predict Spatial Skills
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.22022017.np
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB4.22022017.np
Young children’s understanding of their physical environment, compared with how many spatial vocabulary words they know, may better predict overall spatial abilities, finds a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Stronger spatial skills in children are linked to better early math skills—which can help predict future interest in science, technology, engineering and math categories, says Hilary Miller, lead author of the study and a Wisconsin graduate student studying child development.
Although previous research focuses on quantity of spatial vocabulary, knowledge of words like “above” and “below” doesn’t necessarily mean a child knows when that information is useful, Miller says. Her team’s research, published in the journal Child Development, points to the possibility that children’s understanding of their surroundings—even if they demonstrate that through fewer location words and more relevant spatial details—is ultimately more important in predicting their actual spatial abilities.

The more adept children were at providing relevant information, the higher their scores were on the other spatial assessments used to predict future academic abilities.

The authors observed 41 4-year-olds as they were asked to describe spatial scenes—a mouse placed on different objects that varied in location, size and color—as well as to complete four spatial tasks and other vocabulary-based assessments. The study weighed relevant information described by the children against other irrelevant information, such as a characteristic that all the objects shared.
“They are describing where the mouse is by saying, ‘He’s on the big table,’ or ‘on the brown box,’” Miller says. “Those size and color words aren’t spatial terms in this context, but in the context of the picture they’re seeing they are really useful.”
The more adept children were at providing relevant information, the higher their scores were on the other spatial assessments used to predict future academic abilities.
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February 2017
Volume 22, Issue 2