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J Learn Disabil. 2010 Sep-Oct;43(5):441-54. doi: 10.1177/0022219409355476. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Executive dysfunction among children with reading comprehension deficits.

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  • 1Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21215, USA.


Emerging research supports the contribution of executive function (EF) to reading comprehension; however, a unique pattern has not been established for children who demonstrate comprehension difficulties despite average word recognition ability (specific reading comprehension deficit; S-RCD). To identify particular EF components on which children with S-RCD struggle, a range of EF skills was compared among 86 children, ages 10 to 14, grouped by word reading and comprehension abilities: 24 average readers, 44 with word recognition deficits (WRD), and 18 S-RCD. An exploratory principal components analysis of EF tests identified three latent factors, used in subsequent group comparisons: Planning/ Spatial Working Memory, Verbal Working Memory, and Response Inhibition. The WRD group exhibited deficits (relative to controls) on Verbal Working Memory and Inhibition factors; S-RCD children performed more poorly than controls on the Planning factor. Further analyses suggested the WRD group's poor performance on EF factors was a by-product of core deficits linked to WRD (after controlling for phonological processing, this group no longer showed EF deficits). In contrast, the S-RCD group's poor performance on the planning component remained significant after controlling for phonological processing. Findings suggest reading comprehension difficulties are linked to executive dysfunction; in particular, poor strategic planning/organizing may lead to reading comprehension problems.

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