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Phonological processing in children with specific language impairment with and without reading difficulties

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Tom Loucas, Gillian Baird, Emily Simonoff, Vicky Slonims

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-588
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number5
Early online date17 Mar 2016
Accepted/In press10 Oct 2015
E-pub ahead of print17 Mar 2016
PublishedAug 2016


King's Authors


Background: Specific language impairment (SLI) is heterogeneous and identifying subgroups within it may help explain the aetiology of the condition. Phonological processing abilities distinguish between children with SLI who do and do not have reading decoding impairments (RDIs). Aims: To probe different levels of phonological processing in children with SLI with and without RDI to investigate the cognitive basis of these differences. 

Methods & Procedures: A total of 64 children aged 5-17 years were classified using the results of standardized language and single-word reading tests into those with no SLI and no RDI (No SLI/No RDI) (N = 18), no SLI but with RDI (No SLI/RDI) (N = 4, not included in analyses because of the small number), SLI/No RDI (N = 20), and SLI/RDI (N = 22). The groups were compared on a range of tasks engaging different levels of phonological processing (input and output processing and phonological awareness). 

Outcomes & Results: The SLI/RDI group was distinguished from the SLI/No RDI and No SLI/No RDI groups by more errors in the longer items in non-word repetition and by poorer phonological awareness. Non-word discrimination scores indicated a gradient of performance across groups that was not associated with a qualitatively different pattern of performance. 

Conclusions & Implications: This is the first study contrasting input and output processes associated with phonological processing. The results suggest that deficits in SLI plus RDI may be associated with impairment in actively maintaining phonological representations for phonological processing, which is not present in those without RDI and which leads to reading decoding difficulties.

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