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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2004 Feb;47(1):199-211.

Hidden language impairments in children: parallels between poor reading comprehension and specific language impairment?

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.


This study investigates the oral language skills of 8-year-old children with impaired reading comprehension. Despite fluent and accurate reading and normal nonverbal ability, these children are poor at understanding what they have read. Tasks tapping 3 domains of oral language, namely phonology, semantics, and morphosyntax, were administered, along with measures that reflect an interaction of language domains that we refer to as broader language skills. Relative to control children matched for age and decoding ability, poor comprehenders were impaired across all measures except those tapping phonological skills. In addition to low oral language ability characterizing the group as a whole, some individuals had marked language impairments; it is argued that a substantial minority can be classified as having specific language impairment. However, none of the children had been previously recognized as having a language or reading impairment. These findings demonstrate that serious reading and language impairments are not always obvious in children who have good phonological ability and appear, superficially at least, to read well.

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