Topic Manipulation

Development, Implications and Resources

Topic Maintenance Tips

Click here for a resource with more topic maintenance tips.

Topic Manipulation Development

- Preschool

o Development begins prior to spoken language as children establish joint attention with their caregivers

o At 3 ½ , nearly ¾ of utterances are on topic

o 50% of 5 year old children can stay on topic for a dozen or more utterances

o Preschoolers use repetitions to stay on topic

- Elementary

o Still Reintroduce topics- as they approach adolescents, more novel topics introduced

o Consistently maintain more topics more than preschool children

- Adolescents/Adults

o Majority of utterances on topic

Special Considerations

Gender:
- Men: topics involve opinions, facts, debates
- Women: topics used to establish relationships, share feelings, build rapport
*Interesting fact: Gender preferred language best predicted by topic of utterance, not
necessarily author
Cultural:
- Asian Cultures: more indirect language may mean fewer topic initiations
- Hispanic Cultures: interruptions appropriate thus discourse may include more abrupt
topic shifts
Socioeconomic Status (SES)
- Children from lower SES households may have less developed vocabulary due to
fewer communication interactions at home; thus, topic introductions and
maintenance may be difficult in certain situations.

Implications for the Speech-Language Pathologist

- Topic Manipulation is a Pragmatic Language skill, but may also impair other language domains:

o Syntax: Inability to properly maintain a topic may impair structures of sentences (due to distractions), structures of papers, structures of narratives etc.

o Semantics: Inability to establish background information/semantic understanding for communication partners due to inappropriate shifts

- Individuals with attention deficit disorder may have difficulty focusing on topic at hand introducing relevant topics

- Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have trouble focusing on topics that are not of interest to them

o Children with ASD may experience difficulty with social situations/relationships as they may have difficulty showing interest in the topics of their communication partners

- Difficulty with Topic manipulation may have negative implications on writing of expository texts, narratives and sharing class presentation

Interventions: Graphic Organizers to Assist with Topic Manipulation

Resources:

Baines, E., & Howe, C. (2010). Discourse topic management and discussion skills in

middle childhood: The effects of age and task. First Language, 30(3-4), 508-534.

doi: 10.1177/0142723710370538

Brinton, B., & Fujiki, M. (1984). Development of topic manipulation skills in discourse.

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 27(3), 350-

358. doi:10.1044/jshr.2703.350


Edmonds, P. E., & Haynes, W. O. (1988). Topic manipulation and conversational

participation as a function of familiarity in school-age language-impaired and normal language peers. Journal of Communication Disorders, 21(3), 209-228. doi:10.1016/0021-9924(88)90030-5

Janssen, A., & Murachver, T. (2004). The relationship between gender and topic in

gender-preferential language use. Written Communication, 21(4), 344-367.

doi: 10.1177/0741088304270028

Keystone Area Education Association. (2014). Speech-language pathologist working with boy [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://lulacqueens.org/services_item/making-

stronger-communities/


Kjesbo, R. R., & Daymut, J. A. (2011). Handy handouts: Tips for topic maintenance.

Retrieved from http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts
/pdf/345%20Topic%20Maintenance.pdf


League of United Latin American Citizens. (2013). Handprint [Image]. Retrieved from

http://lulacqueens.org/services_item/making-stronger-communities/


Mearns, D. (2014) Five paragraph essay graphic [Image]. Retrieved from

http://www.google.com/urlsa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAcQjBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.docstoccdn.com%2Fthumb%2Forig%2F33267930.png&ei=NVOHVOnTAti2yAT1rIK4BQ&bvm=bv.81449611,d.aWw&
psig=AFQjCNF8EOQN09c6aHiRyVRVetNJxauzgA&ust=1418241205120085


Owens, R. (2012). Language development (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon


Roth, F., & Worthington, C. (2010). Treatment resource manual for speech language

pathology.College Park, MD: Cengage Learning.


Teacher Toolbox. (2013). Bridges to academic success. Retrieved from

http://bridges.ws.gc.cuny.edu/files/2013/08/Narrative-Graphic-Organizer-Story-
Grammar.pdf


The Big Bang Theory. (2014). Off topic. Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Isvy 3XmO0M


The National Autism Society. (2014). Social stories: Their uses and benefits. Retrieved from http://www.autism.org.uk/living-with-autism/strategies-and-

approaches/social-stories-and-comic-strip-conversations/social-stories-their-uses- and-benefits.aspx


Worksheet Works. (2014). T chart. Retrieved from http://www.worksheetworks.com

/miscellanea/graphic-organizers/tchart.html