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Specific Language Impairment in the News - featured December 2, 2010

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The Common Childhood Disorders that Have Been Left out in the Cold

[Source: The Guardian (UK)]

Specific language impairment (SLI) is a developmental disorder 10 times as common as autism and just as prevalent as dyslexia. So how come you've never heard of it?

Taxi drivers have become the modern equivalent of the man on the Clapham omnibus. I've conducted a totally unsystematic but long-term survey of them and can report that most know what autism and dyslexia are, but very few have any idea about specific language impairment (SLI). Now this is odd because SLI is reckoned to be as common as dyslexia and 10 times as common as autism.

In SLI, children have noticeable problems with understanding and/or producing language, for no obvious reason. However, it is clearly a condition with an image problem. So we have what I call the taxi driver paradox: how come taxi drivers (and lay people in general) know about dyslexia and autism but not about SLI?

The same paradox is seen in research activity. Three years ago, I attended three UK-based conferences that focused on autism, dyslexia and SLI respectively. The autism meeting was huge, the dyslexia meeting large, and the SLI meeting much smaller. Somehow, SLI just keeps getting overlooked. When I delved into possible explanations, I found some logical reasons for this, but they did not fully account for the neglect. Other more arbitrary factors, especially professional prestige, seem to play a worryingly large role in determining which disorders get attention.

Read the Rest of this Article on the Guardian.com

Tags: News of the Week Specific Language Impairment Newsletter 3 December 2010