Processing of Rapid Auditory Stimuli in School-Age Children Referred for Evaluation of Learning Disorders



Tallal hypothesized that reading disabled children have a domain-general deficit in processing rapidly occurring auditory stimuli that degrades speech perception, thereby limiting phonologic awareness and thus reading acquisition. She predicted they would be disproportionately affected by rapidly presented auditory stimuli. In this study, one hundred 7- to 11-year-old children with learning impairment (LI) and 243 non-learning impaired (NLI) children were evaluated on a two-tone auditory discrimination paradigm. LI committed more errors, but effects of timing were comparable. The same result was obtained for a subsample of good and poor readers. Task performance predicted reading, spelling, and calculation. Neural processes underlying perception of speech and other auditory stimuli may be less effective in poor readers; however, contrary to Tallal's hypothesis, rate may not be specifically affected.