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Brain Lang. 2004 Feb;88(2):167-79.

Language development in children at risk for language impairment: cross-population comparisons.

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  • 1San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-1518, USA.


At 3 years of age the spontaneous language of 17 typically developing children was compared to two groups of toddlers who were at risk for language delay for very different reasons. One at-risk group, late talkers, appeared normal in all respects except for their delayed language. These 20 children scored at or below the fifteenth percentile for expressive vocabulary on the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory (Fenson et al., 1993) when originally identified at 20-27 months of age and within the normal range on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (Bayley, 1969). The other group, 21 children with unilateral focal brain injury, suffered localized damage to their brain prenatally, perinatally, or within the first 6 months of life. Results indicated that both of the at-risk groups were still significantly lower in vocabulary diversity and grammar at 3 years of age. There was also significantly greater variability in the at-risk groups than in the control groups, and in the children with focal brain injury than in the late talkers in both areas. The importance of language comprehension to development in this period was supported by two findings. First, children with focal brain injury had significantly lower scores than late talkers on the Index of Productive Syntax, a test of emerging grammar, and had been lower in comprehension on a standardized test of language comprehension a year earlier. Second, late talkers with delay in comprehension as well as production had significantly lower scores on IPSyn than those with normal comprehension, suggesting that they are at greater risk for continued delay. Qualitative analyses indicated that the at-risk groups produced the same kinds of errors, but that late talkers produced a substantially greater proportion of errors in obligatory contexts than did children with focal brain injury.

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