Use of imitation training for targeting grammar: A narrative review

Sarita L. Eisenberg, Shelley L. Bredin-Oja, Kasey Crumrine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this narrative review was to examine the evidence for imitation training for targeting grammar in children with developmental language disorder. Method: Studies investigating imitation training were compiled from two databases—PsycINFO and Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts—as well as from reference lists of several books and articles reviewing language therapy. Results: Twenty-one studies were reviewed. We summarized the demographic and methodological characteristics of the included studies. We identified substantial differences in the implementation of imitation training across the studies and noted a lack of studies considering how those differences might affect therapy outcome. Studies showed a rapid increase in the production of grammatical targets during imitation training activities, higher performance relative to a control group that did not receive any therapy, and generalization to untrained exemplars. However, the studies did not unequivocally link the increased performance to the imitation training therapy. Studies also showed limited generalization to conversational speech. Conversationally based therapy resulted in faster or higher usage in conversational speech, while imitation training resulted in faster immediate gains in usage during therapy trials. Conclusion: We believe that imitation training can continue to be a useful tool in a speech-language pathologist’s toolbox, but with suggested modifications. Specifically, we suggest use of imitation training as a means for rapidly achieving production of previously absent grammatical targets. However, we do not recommend sole or long-term use of imitation training for working on grammar. Further research is needed to refine our use of the procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-225
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


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