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Keywords:

  • Specific reading disability;
  • specific language impairment;
  • learning difficulties

Background:  The specificity of impairments in specific reading disabilities (SRD) and specific language impairments (SLI) has recently been questioned, with many children recruited for studies of SRD and SLI demonstrating impairments in both reading and oral language development. This has implications for the results of SRD and SLI studies where both reading and oral language skills are not assessed. Thus there is a need to compare the profiles of children with both oral language and reading impairments to groups of children with SRD and SLI.

Methods:  The reading, oral language, short-term auditory memory, phonological processing, spelling, and maths abilities of 151 children (aged between 7 and 12 years) drawn from a Learning Disabilities Clinic were assessed.

Results:  Five groups were identified, including children who demonstrated either a specific reading disability or a specific language impairment and children who showed evidence of both reading and oral language impairments. Differences were found between the groups on maths, phonological processing, short-term auditory memory, and spelling measures, with the children displaying both language and reading deficits generally performing at a lower level than the children with specific reading or language deficits.

Conclusions:  It was concluded that more careful screening needs to be conducted in both clinical and research settings to accurately identify the nature of deficits in children with reading and oral language difficulties. Furthermore, a third and separate category of children with a mixed pattern of impairments needs to be considered.