Specific language impairment ( SLI)-Specific language impairment is one of the most common childhood learning disabilities, affecting approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten.
What is specific language impairment?
Specific language impairment (SLI) is a language disorder that delays the mastery of language skills in children who have no hearing loss or other developmental delays. SLI is also called developmental language disorder, language delay, or developmental dysphasia. It is one of the most common childhood learning disabilities, affecting approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten. The impact of SLI persists into adulthood.
What causes specific language impairment?
The cause of SLI is unknown, but recent discoveries suggest it has a strong genetic link. Children with SLI are more likely than those without SLI to have parents and siblings who also have had difficulties and delays in speaking. In fact, 50 to 70 percent of children with SLI have at least one other family member with the disorder.
What are the symptoms of specific language impairment?
Children with SLI are often late to talk and may not produce any words until they are 2 years old. At age 3, they may talk, but may not be understood. As they grow older, children with SLI will struggle to learn new words and make conversation. Having difficulty using verbs is a hallmark of SLI. Typical errors that a 5-year-old child with SLI would make include dropping the “s” from the end of present-tense verbs, dropping past tense, and asking questions without the usual “be” or “do” verbs. For example, instead of saying “She rides the horse,” a child with SLI will say, “She ride the horse.” Instead of saying “He ate the cookie,” a child with SLI will say, “He eat the cookie.” Instead of saying “Why does he like me?”, a child with SLI will ask, “Why he like me?”
How is specific language impairment diagnosed in children?
The first person to suspect a child might have SLI is often a parent or preschool or school teacher. A number of speech-language professionals might be involved in the diagnosis, including a speech-language pathologist (a health professional trained to evaluate and treat children with speech or language problems). Language skills are tested using assessment tools that evaluate how well the child constructs sentences and keeps words in their proper order, the number of words in his or her vocabulary, and the quality of his or her spoken language. There are a number of tests commercially available that can specifically diagnose SLI. Some of the tests use interactions between the child and puppets and other toys to focus on specific rules of grammar, especially the misuse of verb tenses. These tests can be used with children between 3 and 8 years of age and are especially useful for identifying children with SLI once they enter school.
What treatments are available for specific language impairment?
Because SLI affects reading it also affects learning. If it is not treated early, it can affect a child’s performance in school. Since the early signs of SLI are often present in children as young as 3 years old, the preschool years can be used to prepare them for kindergarten with special programs designed to enrich language development. This kind of classroom program might enlist normally developing children to act as role models for children with SLI and feature activities that encourage role-playing and sharing time, as well as hands-on lessons to explore new, interesting vocabulary. Some parents also might want their child to see a speech-language pathologist, who can assess their child’s needs, engage him or her in structured activities, and recommend home materials for at-home enrichment.