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Worth Repeating: Diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment

Christine Dollaghan, Ph.D., Department of Communication Science and Disorders, University of Texas at Dallas
Published online 03-26-08 in the Canadian Language & Literacy Research Network in their Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development
The acquisition of language is one of the signature achievements of childhood. Adequate language functioning includes the ability to understand what others say (also known as receptive language or language comprehension) and to produce utterances comprehensible to others (also known as expressive language or language production). Language capabilities can be differentiated further into several subdomains, including the knowledge and use of (a) words (also known as lexical, semantic, or vocabulary development); (b) sequences of words (also known as grammatical or syntactic development); © linguistic forms in social interactions (also known as pragmatic development); and (d) the system of speech sounds (also known as phonology). Children with specific language impairment (SLI) are broadly defined as displaying significant difficulties in one or more of these language domains. These difficulties cannot readily be explained by deficits in other aspects of development that are linked to language acquisition. Such aspects include intelligence, hearing, oral-motor skills, emotional developmental, and language exposure. However, due to the multiple aspects of language that may be affected, the difficulties of separating language from other developmental skills, and the variability in the course of language development within and across individual children, the precise criteria for diagnosing SLI have been the subject of debate for more than 20 years.
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