Reading ability trajectories in children with DLD

St Clair, M. C., Durkin, K., Conti-Ramsden, G., & Pickles, A. (2010). Growth of reading skills in children with a history of specific language impairment: The role of autistic symptomatology and language-related abilities. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 28(1), 109-131. https://doi.org/10.1348/026151009x480158


Aim of the paper:


A common difficulty among children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is reading ability. Previous research has examined the link between DLD and reading abilities across early to middle childhood. Studies looking at adolescents produce mixed findings. In this paper, the authors explore how reading abilities develop in children with DLD across childhood and adolescence. They also further examine how reading skills and language-related abilities are related. These language-related abilities include vocabulary, narrative skills and phonological memory. These skills have been found to impact reading skills in previous research. The authors also investigate the influence of autistic symptomatology on the trajectory of reading abilities in children with SLI. They investigated 239 children from age 7 to 16. 28 of these children displayed autistic symptomatology. Reading accuracy was measured at 7, 8, 11, 14 and 16 years whilst reading comprehension was measured at 11, 14 and 16 years. Language-related abilities were only measured at 14 years.


What was found:


  • For both reading accuracy and reading comprehension, the development of reading skills in children with DLD was found to parallel typically developing children’s growth. There was a significant growth across childhood to early adolescence and then a levelling off afterwards.

  • However, children with DLD displayed overall lower levels of both reading accuracy and reading comprehension compared to typically developing children, with comprehension being more impaired.

  • They also found that children within the DLD group who exhibited autistic symptomatology were closer to scores of typically developing children for reading accuracy.

  • On the other hand, reading comprehension was similar between children with DLD and those with DLD and additional autistic symptoms too.

  • The authors found a strong relationship between expressive and receptive language abilities and reading comprehension. They also found a strong link between phonological memory and reading accuracy.


What does this mean?


Their findings show that children with DLD display similar trajectories in reading abilities to that of typically developing children but do not achieve the same levels throughout their childhood and adolescence. This suggests that reading difficulties detected in childhood may be predictive of their abilities during adolescence. Comprehension was found to be more impacted by DLD, as both the DLD and DLD with autistic symptoms groups display deficits in this skill. The finding for children with DLD and autistic symptoms displaying levels of reading accuracy similar to typically developing children, suggesting a causal relationship between autistic symptomatology and reading accuracy.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it. Please click here to find the full paper.