Language impairment affects children’s writing ability

By Nikki Withers, medwireNews Reporter

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) have a lower quality of written language than their typically developing peers, show study findings.

However, the researchers found that the children's use of grammar was not noticeably different.

Previous research has shown that children with SLI have difficulties with a range of literacy skills. Furthermore, studies have shown that writing to a good standard involves strong linguistic skills.

For the current study, Gareth Williams (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and colleagues investigated the writing skills of 45 children: 15 with SLI, 15 with typical development matched by chronological age, and 15 matched by spelling age.

Children with SLI were defined as those with a non-verbal ability score on the Matrices subtest from the British Ability Scales 2nd Edition (BAS-II) within the normal range. They also needed to have a performance at least one standard deviation below the mean for two language tests out of: Test for the Reception of Grammar-2, British Picture Vocabulary Scale-III, and Recalling Sentences subtest from Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4.

All of the children took part in a range of tasks that assessed writing, reading, and spelling abilities.

As reported in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, the researchers found that the written work produced by children with SLI had a significantly less diverse use of words, more spelling errors, and had poorer organization, unity, and coherence when compared with that produced by children of a similar chronological age. However, children with SLI had scores in line with children matched by spelling age.

The team reports that children with SLI tended to produce work with a poorer sentence structure and less variety than the other children.

Although children with SLI made more grammatical errors at the word level than their peers, their use of grammar for the text as a whole was not noticeably different.

Regression analysis revealed that, overall, writing skills were strongly associated with reading skills.

"These findings reinforce that reading ability is an important and concurrent skill that supports writing and that reading interventions should be considered alongside any potential writing interventions for children with SLI," conclude the researchers.

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