Communication Chain Report
Crystal and Varley’s Communication Chain Model (1998) is a scientific framework that clarifies and explains the features of human communication. A disorder of communication may arise from a disruption to the Communication chain, for example, any difficulties with executing speech.
The Communication Chain includes 3 main stages. The first stage is production (expression) which is where a linguistic message is formed and can be conveyed (Williamson, 2014). This is where a person thinks about what their message should be and decides on their message. The second stage is reception (comprehension) which is the process that occurs once the message has been transmitted. Reception can be defined as a person making inferences about linguistic utterances. The final stage is transmission whereby the speech sound wave is transmitted through particles in the air and into the ear acoustically.
1) Pre-linguistic Stage
Primarily the pre-linguistic stage is where the message (an idea or thought can be shared or kept private). The ideas that need to be communicated are thought of (using language) in the mind, these ideas are not formed separately. So this is where David realises that he needs to ask Emma for help. David is in the pre-linguistic stage as he has thought about what he desires to say to Emma. According to Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication (1949), David would be the transmitter as he initiates the conversation and expresses his idea verbally.
2) Language Encoding
Language encoding is a cognitive skill that involves psycholinguistics to specifically form the message. In this example, this is where David plans how he is going to articulate his message to Emma. This includes the sound of the words that he will use, this information is accessed from the phonological store. Associations between the units are acknowledged to form the correct sentence structure. The words David wishes to use will also be coded in a linguistic form from the semantic store. In addition to this David decides the purpose of the question that he wants to ask Emma. We can assume that David and Emma are acquaintances so the situation is informal as they are having a casual conversation over dinner. These external factors contribute to how David encodes his message. Furthermore, the way in which this message is going to be transmitted (verbally) is also established in this stage.
3) Motor Programming
This is where the linguistic message is converted into a number of instructions to command the muscles in speech/writing (motor output system). This is so that the message can be sent to an external receiver using highly skilled movements. David moves his lips to speak to Emma and says “please can you pass me the pepper, I can’t reach it.” This requires the contraction of fine muscles in the face, therefore the motor programmer can conduct the voluntary muscle movements.
4) Motor Execution
The motor programme is executed to initiate the movement for the message to be articulated. Sensory feedback provides information of the location of the muscle and the degree of movement required to produce movement. Information from the peripheral nervous system is sent to the motor cortex along motor neurones to coordinate the movement of the muscles. David produces voice (phonation) to deliver his message fluently.
Auditory feedback is significant in controlling voice production (phonation) and helping the individual (David) to identify whether the message sounds the way they intended it to. Auditory feedback can occur via air conduction or bone conduction which is where we hear our voice through vibrations in the bones/tissues of the skull. David will monitor the way in which he produced his message by acknowledging the way he moves his body and his body position (kinaesthetic feedback). Proprioceptors are sensory receptors that detect sensory stimuli and relay this feedback.
This is where the message is sent through a medium to another person. David’s speech is transmitted to the recipient (Emma) via sound waves through the air.
Reception is where the incoming message is registered by a sense organ (ears/eyes) and the process of decoding begins. Emma is the recipient so looks at David and listens to his message.
7) Perception and Recognition
The visual/acoustic characteristics of the incoming message are recognised by the brain to distinguish the sequence of the units.
The stimulus is compared to information that is already stored. This is to determine if the input is new or an experience that the individual (Emma) is familiar with. During this stage, the input is analysed to ascertain if linguistic or non-linguistic processing is required. However, the meaning of the message is not decoded in this stage. It is very likely that Emma has experienced this before so top-down processing may occur. This allows Emma to react quickly and use motor processing (non-linguistic processing) to pass the pepper to David.
Bottom Up Processing
This type of processing is slow as it begins with the stimulus but is very accurate as the message is analysed word by word/ letter by letter. This is to form a visual mental understanding of the object/ideas received.
The information is predicted by using higher order information, this requires deeper cognition. Furthermore, this type of processing utilises the features of the sound of the message so the phonological context (Pennington, 2007). The meaning of the message is applied to the situation, so top-down processing uses semantic context.
8) Language decoding
During this stage, the connotation of the message is interpreted. The grammar and structure of the sentences are used to develop an understanding of the meaning (syntax). The structure of the words (morphology) and semantics are also used to decode the language. Emma develops an understanding of the message and registers that she is being asked to pass the pepper. According to Shannon and Weaver’s model, Emma would be the decoder as she has interpreted the message. The information is converted into a form that can be understood (syntax/morphology/semantics) (Thompson, 2011).
9) Message interpretation
Information from the environment is integrated with the data decoded during the language decoding stage to enhance Emma’s understanding of the situation. Non-verbal communication like body language, eye gaze and gestures are also comprehended to interpret the message. For example, David may be pointing to the pepper whilst asking for it. This contributes to the communication and Emma can also process this. Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication would suggest that Emma is the receiver as this is where the message terminates.
Developmental Language Disorder
Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) may be defined as a condition that is apparent in children who experience difficulties with verbal expression and comprehension. DLD is very common and affects two children in every classroom however many people are not aware of the condition (Bishop, 2017).
Some symptoms of DLD include issues with syntax and pragmatics. For example, there may be issues with pronouncing words clearly, being unable to name certain words or learning songs. Furthermore, it may be difficult for the child to understand how to use plurals and tenses. Each child progresses through the different stages of acquiring spoken language at a different rate, however, a child with DLD progresses a lot more slowly than what is expected for their age group (Cicerchia, 2019).
Children with DLD may experience problems with socialising as they do not have the communication skills to interact like their peers. This can impact their self-esteem and confidence as of poor interactions with others. Their academic ability is also affected as they find numeracy and literacy difficult to understand. For instance, they may have problems with reading and writing (Leonard, 2014).
The disruption in the communication chain occurs in the language encoding stage for DLD. This is because of the cognitive deficits that are present in the linguistic processing system. This means that there is an impairment in the mental processing of information that the child is presented with.
The child may also experience difficulties in forming the linguistic message and comprehending information in a written/verbal form. Language is acquired more slowly in comparison to the child’s peers. The breakdown occurs in the language encoding stage as children with DLD find it challenging to choose the sounds of the words and the structure of sentences when communicating. This phonological difficulty results in the development of an incomprehensible sound system which affects their ability to process speech (Stackhouse and Wells, 1997).
Children with DLD may also experience difficulties in making decisions about how external factors contribute to the linguistic units involved in producing language. Therefore, sentence structure may not be accurate as the linguistic units are not linked together.
The child may experience difficulties in recollecting the sequence of the auditory information presented, causing issues with listening which in turn affects their communication. The capacity of their auditory storage (which includes their short-term memory) is limited and is a reason for the deficits in auditory perception. These deficits affect the child’s ability to process language as they cannot fully comprehend the message. There is difficulty in keeping an utterance in memory for the required length of time so only part of the information will register with the child.
The child’s morphological development is also affected which impacts their ability to form phrases and clauses. The effect of this is that the child may make many errors when using words and may also have a limited vocabulary. In addition to this the child may be unable to identify or access the word that they want to use so will describe the object/concept instead.
This in turn will affect the other stages of the communication chain. For example, during the motor programming stage, the linguistic message (formed from the language encoding stage) will be converted to a form that is mediated by the motor output system.
A Speech and Language Therapist may discuss the sounds of words and their meanings with a child to help them manage their expressive language difficulties. Furthermore, the children are taught how to perform specific behaviours related to speech like speech sounds and sentence structure using positive and negative reinforcement (Law, Garrett and Nye, 2005).
International Classification of Functioning, Health and Disability (ICF)
The ICF provides a foundation in describing a person’s health by using a wider context like physical and environmental factors. The ICF is a tool that assesses how a person is functioning within society by considering their level of health (Wylie et al., 2013). This framework has many practical applications like purposes at a social, institutional or personal level. Disability is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives, the ICF acknowledges this and portrays disability as being universal. This framework identifies 3 levels of functioning body, activity and participation. The body is where there are issues related to structures in the body and their function. Activity is the ability of the person and competency of the person. Participation is how the individual can perform in society on a daily basis. The ICF combines biological and social explanations to form the biopsychosocial model of health (Threats, 2010).
Developmental Language Disorder impacts an individual’s ability to produce language (expression) in a written or verbal form. The difficulties lie in forming the grammatical structure of sentences and conveying a message which is meaningful. The ICF codes for language impairments as a specific mental function, which is a body function that includes attention and memory. A child with DLD will have limitations in their processing capacities so will be unable to focus on an external stimulus and remember it (Marton, Kelmenson and Pinkhasova, 2007). It may be thought that DLD is a result of differences in brain (body) structure however knowledge in this area is limited. Because of the difficulty of forming a message the activity of a child with DLD is affected, as they may not be able to communicate their issues/thoughts with peers. Resulting in difficulties forming relationships which limit social development and social confidence (Eadie et al., 2018). This will affect the child’s emotional state and could lead to depression/isolation. If the child’s social ability is affected the child may play independently which affects their early development. Therefore a child’s involvement in school will be affected leading to a lower quality of life (participation) (Westby, 2007).
Furthermore, DLD also impacts an individual’s academic performance. This is because of the delay in using grammatical morphology and language development. This affects the individual’s literacy development as they may experience word-finding and syntax acquiring difficulties. Their ability to write will be impacted (activity) causing them to achieve lower vocational qualifications. Additionally, this will influence them financially as they will only be able to gain employment in certain professions. Research has found that young people with DLD have a lower engagement with financial products. This shows how their participation in society will be affected by DLD (Westby, 2007).