Original Research

The development of precursors to literacy in mentally disabled children

Debra Marais, Erna Alant
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 41, No 1 | a252 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v41i1.252 | © 2019 Debra Marais, Erna Alant | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 October 2016 | Published: 31 December 1994

About the author(s)

Debra Marais, Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Erna Alant, Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This study aimed to investigate metalinguistic precursors to literacy in mentally handicapped children, with a view to improve literacy training in this population. Language proficiency and environmental literacy factors were explored, and an analysis was made of proficiency in several metalinguistic tasks (i.e., higher level language awareness skills). Six children who are educable mentally retarted, with mental ages between five and seven years (chronological ages between six and sixteen years) were assessed. Results showed that environmental factors of literacy socialisation and print awareness were adequate, with reasonable exposure to literacy artifacts and events. Language abilities were also adequately developed. Isolated metalinguistic skills (e.g., phonemic segmentation) had developed in those children who had received reading instruction, however, most metalinguistic precursors were not adequately developed for their mental ages and were below a five-year level.


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