Motor skills in children with DLD

Finlay, J. C., & McPhillips, M. (2013). Comorbid motor deficits in a clinical sample of children with specific language impairment. Research in developmental disabilities, 34(9), 2533-2542. Aim of the paper: Previous research has found many children with SLI/DLD* experience some level of motor difficulty. There has also been research suggesting the development of children’s motor skills might predict their later language development. This paper compares the motor skills, as well as the reading and writing skills, of children with SLI/DLD to two other groups of children: ​ -Children who have language problems but have not been referred for a language assessment. -Children who have no language problems. ​ All children are 9-10 years old. What they found:

  • Children with SLI/DLD scored lower across all areas in the motor skill assessment compared to children without language problems and children with language problems who have not been referred to a clinician.


  • Children with SLI/DLD were more likely to be at risk of having motor problems, or of having a definite motor problem.

  • Children with SLI/DLD also had poorer reading and writing skills compared to children without language problems and children with language problems who have not been referred to a clinician.

What does this mean? Overall, children with SLI/DLD have significant motor, reading, and writing problems when compared to children without language problems and children with language problems who have not been referred to a clinician. The significant difference between children with SLI/DLD and children with language problems but no referral suggests that motor, reading and writing skills are affected by factors other than language skills. Further research is needed to clarify the relationship between language difficulties, motor skills, reading skills and writing skills. Like many other developmental disorders, comorbidity seems to be very common among children with DLD, meaning that they are likely to have other developmental difficulties alongside language problems. The authors of this study suggest this issue needs to be addressed in assessment and intervention settings. Clinicians need to be aware of additional developmental difficulties during a diagnosis of DLD. When children with DLD have difficulties with multiple areas of development, interventions should focus on these broad range of difficulties. *Note: This summary uses the term SLI/DLD. This paper was published before agreement on the term “Developmental Language Disorder” (DLD) was made. In this study the authors talk about Specific Language Impairment (SLI). In this study children had to have lower language skills than would be expected from their non-verbal intelligence skills to be included in the SLI group. Where can I read this paper? This paper is not open access so we cannot provide a link at this time. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk.