Cognitive and Social-Emotional Functioning in Adolescents With Communication Problems

Thursday 16 May 2024, 12:30 pm
PhD student
L.G.H. Smit MSc.
prof. dr. C.T.W.M. Vissers, prof. dr. H.E.T. Knoors, prof. dr. L.T.W. Verhoeven

During adolescence, young people's social lives undergo significant changes; social interactions with peers increase and contact with parents or carers often decreases. This period is characterised by intense social, emotional and cognitive growth in preparation for adulthood. Young people with language and communication difficulties due to a Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) or deafness and hearing impairment (D/HI), experience specific challenges. Their difficulties with language and communication can make expressing and understanding their own and others' emotions difficult, putting them at increased risk of social-emotional problems. Theory of Mind (ToM), the ability to recognise thoughts and feelings in oneself and others, and executive functions (EF) such as planning and self-regulation, were examined as possible factors associated with social-emotional functioning. Both skills develop within a social communication framework. Adolescents with DLD experience more problems in social interaction, related to ToM, while D/HI adolescents show no significant social-emotional problems. Interestingly, both groups showed no association between social-emotional functioning and EF. Although D/HI adolescents themselves reported experiencing improvements after a ToM intervention, no similar progress was noticeable among adolescents with DLD. Early identification of risks and personalised support seem crucial for young people with language and communication difficulties. An approach that makes room for individual variation and environmental influences can lead to more effective interventions for these young people. In addition, interventions for young people with DLD should be less linguistic in nature.

Lidy Smit, born on 29 May 1988 in Nijmegen, received her Bachelor's degree in Pedagogical Studies from the HAN University of Applied Sciences and her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the Open University Netherlands. She has worked in clinical practice as an educator and psychologist for a long time. Within her own practice, the Palm, she offered care and counselling to young adults with developmental problems. She obtained her Master’s degree in Psychology from Radboud University Nijmegen, and went on to conduct PhD research at the Behavioural Science Institute, in collaboration with Kentalis. As senior researcher at the Kentalis Academy, she leads projects within Kentalis education and Deelkracht, reflecting her expertise in social-emotional development and cognitive skills of adolescents with DLD.