Processing Speed Measures as Clinical Markers for Children With Language Impairment

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Purpose: This study investigated the relative utility of linguistic and nonlinguistic processing speed tasks as predictors of language impairment (LI) in children across 2 time points.
Method: Linguistic and nonlinguistic reaction time data, obtained from 131 children (89 children with typical development [TD] and 42 children with LI; 74 boys and 57 girls) were analyzed in the 3rd and 8th grades. Receiver operating characteristic curve analyses and likelihood ratios were used to compare the diagnostic usefulness of each task. A binary logistic regression was used to test whether combined measures enhanced diagnostic accuracy.
Results: In 3rd grade, a linguistic task, grammaticality judgment, provided the best discrimination between LI and TD groups. In 8th grade, a combination of linguistic and nonlinguistic tasks, rhyme judgment and simple response time, provided the best discrimination between groups.
Conclusion: Processing speed tasks were moderately predictive of LI status at both time points. Better LR+ than LR– values suggested that slow processing speed was more predictive of the presence than the absence of LI. A nonlinguistic processing measure contributed to the prediction of LI only at 8th grade, consistent with the view that nonlinguistic and linguistic processing speeds follow different developmental trajectories.

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Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, v. 58, issue 3, p. 954-960