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J Learn Disabil. 2017 Jul/Aug;50(4):434-449. doi: 10.1177/0022219415617167. Epub 2016 Jan 8.

Relationships of Attention and Executive Functions to Oral Language, Reading, and Writing Skills and Systems in Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence.

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1 University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
2 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.
3 Seattle Pacific University, WA, USA.


Relationships between attention/executive functions and language learning were investigated in students in Grades 4 to 9 ( N = 88) with and without specific learning disabilities (SLDs) in multiword syntax in oral and written language (OWL LD), word reading and spelling (dyslexia), and subword letter writing (dysgraphia). Prior attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis was correlated only with impaired handwriting. Parental ratings of inattention, but not hyperactivity, correlated with measures of written language but not oral language. Sustaining switching attention correlated with writing the alphabet from memory in manuscript or by keyboard and fast copying of a sentence with all the letters of the alphabet. Multiple regressions based on a principal component for composites of multiple levels of language (subword, word, and syntax/text) showed that measures of attention and executive function involving language processing rather than ratings of attention and executive function not specifically related to language accounted for more variance and identified more unique predictors in the composite outcomes for oral language, reading, and writing systems. Inhibition related to focused attention uniquely predicted outcomes for the oral language system. Findings are discussed in reference to implications for assessing and teaching students who are still learning to pay attention to heard and written language and self-regulate their language learning during middle childhood and adolescence.


cognitive processing; language

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