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Working Memory Abilities of Children With Dyslexia, Developmental Language Disorder, or Both

Gray, S., Fox, A.B., Green†, S., Alt, M., Hogan, T.P., Petscher, Y. and Cowan, N. (2019). Working Memory Profiles of Children With Dyslexia, Developmental Language Disorder, or Both. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 62(6), pp.1839–1858. doi:10.1044/2019_jslhr-l-18-0148.

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Key terms that are in this paper:

  • Working memory: concerned with processing and storing small amounts of information for short periods of time. This information could often be verbal, which makes working memory crucial for language learning. Working memory is a powerful predictor of learning abilities and explains differences in reading and writing performance in school-aged children.

  • Central executive: a distinct component of working memory. This system is flexible and responsible for the regulation of cognitive processes.

Aim of this paper:

Children with dyslexia and developmental language disorder (DLD), have both demonstrated increased difficulties in working memory when compared to typically developing children. However, it is unclear how these working memory difficulties may relate to the disorders (DLD and dyslexia). The aim of this study was to examine the differences between the working memory of children with DLD and dyslexia (‘learning disorders’ group) and of children with typical development.

What was found?

  • There was no significant difference between the working memory abilities of children with learning disorders and of typically developing children.

  • A small percentage of typically developing children also demonstrated difficulties with their working memory.

What does this mean?

Results indicate that working memory difficulties do not always co-occur with diagnoses of DLD or dyslexia. Working memory and its central executive component have been shown to be predictors of academic achievement in children with lower reading skills, regardless of diagnosis. These findings address the importance of being aware of a child’s working memory abilities. For example, working memory measurements could be useful at schools. They could help teachers and parents identify working memory difficulties in children and adjust academic instructions accordingly. In doing so, this could support a child’s future academic achievements.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, and you can find it by following this link:


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