Literacy skills in primary school-aged children with pragmatic language impairment: A comparison with children with specific language impairment

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Background: Children with pragmatic language impairment (CwPLI) are characterized by difficulties with the interpersonal use of language in social contexts and they possess a range of language difficulties that affect their educational attainment. Since literacy skills are central to this attainment, one way of identifying appropriate support needs for CwPLI would be to profile their reading and writing skills as a group. Aims: To investigate the word reading, non-word reading, reading comprehension, and written expression skills of CwPLI and a comparison group of children with specific language impairment (CwSLI). CwSLI were recruited in order to examine any overlaps in literacy impairments for the two groups. Methods & Procedures: Primary school-aged CwPLI (n= 59) and CwSLI (n= 12) were recruited from speech and language therapists. Children completed standardized assessments of literacy skills. The level of impairment for each component literacy skill was examined for CwPLI and CwSLI. Outcomes & Results: For the CwPLI, group mean scores on each of the literacy skills were at the lower end of the normal range compared with population norms. The range of individual scores was large, with some children scoring near floor level and others scoring up to 2 SDs (standard deviations) above the mean, illustrating the heterogeneity of literacy skills within the group. For the CwSLI, group mean scores on each of the literacy skills were between 1 SD and 2 SDs below the population mean. CwSLI were significantly more impaired on all of the literacy measures compared with CwPLI. This difference remained even when receptive language ability and non-verbal intelligence were controlled for. Conclusions & Implications: The results demonstrate that there is a high level of literacy impairment within CwPLI and CwSLI, providing evidence that individualized literacy skill intervention is important for the long-term academic outcome of these children. © 2010 Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-347
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011