Specific Language Impairment

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Contribution to Book

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The Handbook of Language and Speech Disorders


M. Ball., J. Damico, & N. Mueller



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The acquisition of language is one of the most important milestones in early childhood. Most children seem to acquire language effortlessly, giving little conscious attention to the rules that govern language structure and use. Language is much more than a means to communicate. IT plays an important role in problem solving, thinking, and building and maintaining relationships. Because language provides the foundation for learning to read, it also has a significant impact on academic learning and success in school (Catts et al., 2005). For some children, however, language is not easily acquired. Children who have difficulty learning language have been variously referred to as having a language disorder, language impairment, language delay, or specific language impairment (SLI). Because SLI is the term most commonly used in the research literature, we will focus on this group of children throughout this chapter, though we will also discuss children with language disorders who do not meet the criteria for SLI. After discussing ways in which children with SLI have been defined and identified, we consider how they have been classified and subtyped. We will then discuss prognosis and intervention outcomes. The chapter ends with a discussion of some prevailing views on the causes of SLI and directions for future research.


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