Communication Sciences and Disorders Publications


The Contribution of Processing Impairments to SLI: Insights from Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

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Journal of Communication Disorders





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Slowed speed of processing and impaired rapid temporal processing (RTP) have been proposed to underlie specific language impairment (SLI), but it is not clear that these dysfunctions are unique to SLI. We considered the contribution of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which frequently co-occurs with language impairments, to performances on processing tasks. School-aged children who had SLI without concurrent ADHD (n=14), ADHD without concurrent SLI (n=14), and typical development (TD, n=28) performed two nonverbal speeded tasks and one auditory RTP task. RTP impairments were found in many children with SLI and ADHD, and some children with TD. Children with ADHD demonstrated slower processing speed than children with SLI or TD. Overall, findings questioned the uniqueness of these processing dysfunctions to language impairments and the validity of the behavioural paradigms traditionally used to estimate processing dysfunctions. Accounts of SLI should be further scrutinized by considering the influence of other disorders. LEARNING OUTCOMES: Readers will (1) become familiar with areas of overlap between SLI and ADHD, (2) understand some of the confounds associated with behavioural measures of processing speed in children, and (3) recognize the value in testing models of language disorders by including participants with other types of disorders.