Does word reading affect parents’ concerns for their child’s language development?

Hendricks, A. E., Adlof, S. M., Alonzo, C. N., Fox, A. B., & Hogan, T. P. (2019). Identifying Children at Risk for Developmental Language Disorder Using a Brief, Whole-Classroom Screen. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR, 62(4), 896–908. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-18-0093


Aim of the paper:


Past research has found that children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) often struggle with reading words and/or with reading comprehension. Difficulties with word reading tend to be more noticeable than reading comprehension difficulties. This may mean that the language difficulties of children who don’t have word reading difficulties, but may have reading comprehension difficulties, are not noticed for years. This study looked at whether parents are aware of their child’s language difficulties. They tested children’s language, word reading and cognitive abilities and determined if they met the criteria for DLD. They also asked the children’s parents if they had any concerns about their child’s language development. This included receptive (understanding) and expressive (using) language, speech production, literacy (including word reading) and attention.


What was found:


  • Of the 97 participants, 22 were found to meet the criteria for DLD.

  • 10 of these children had typical word reading skills and 11 had poor word reading skills (data for one participant was missing).

  • 41% of parents of children who met the criteria for DLD reported that their child had previously received special education services, such as language, speech and reading services.

  • Less than half of parents of children who met the criteria for DLD reported concern about their child’s language development. The most common reported concerns were reading comprehension, writing and attention.

  • Children who met the criteria for DLD who also had poor word reading skills were almost twice as likely to have previously received previous special education services than those with average word reading skills.

  • Out of 9 possible concerns, the mean number of parent-reported concerns was 2.3 for children who met the criteria for DLD and had average word reading, compared to 3.3 for those with poor word reading.


What does this mean?


The study found that parents of children who met the criteria for DLD had more concerns for their child’s language, and had more interaction with special education services, when their child had poor word reading compared to average word reading. The findings indicate that parents may not be aware of or may not their child’s language difficulties if their word reading is not poor. This may contribute to DLD being underdiagnosed. Considering the findings, services should not over rely on parents being able to identify their child’s language difficulties. Additionally, parents could be provided with more information about the symptoms of DLD to raise awareness of symptoms other than difficulty with word reading.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.