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Handout H: Five Components of Language and the Impact of  Visual Impairments

Sapp, W.K. (2005). Five components of language and the impact of visual impairments. Chapel Hill, NC: Early Intervention Training Center for Infants and Toddlers With Visual Impairments, FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-CH.

Language component


Language development specific to children with visual impairments


Rules that govern the use of speech sounds

  • No significant differences


Rules that determine the internal organization of words

  • No significant differences


Rules that determine the meaning of words and word combinations

  • Similarly sized vocabularies
  • Use more specific nouns and fewer general nouns
  • Discrepant expressive and receptive communication scores
  • Less efficient at verbal classification
  • Rarely ask rhetorical questions


Rules that govern the form of sentences

  • No significant differences


Rules that govern how a given language is used in different social contexts and environments

  • Engage in similar number of communication acts
  • Have fewer verbal turns
  • Have shorter speaking turns
  • Parents more likely to initiate interactions
  • Reduced ability to use and read body language
  • Use questions more frequently; primarily to request an action from another person
  • Rely more on imitation, repetition, and routines


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Pérez-Pereira, M., & Castro, J. (1997). Language acquisition and the compensation of visual deficit: New comparative data on a controversial topic. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15(4), 439-459.