Backward and Simultaneous Masking in Children With Grammatical Specific Language Impairment: No Simple Link Between Auditory and Language Abilities Purpose We investigated claims that specific language impairment (SLI) typically arises from nonspeech auditory deficits by measuring tone-in-noise thresholds in a relatively homogeneous SLI subgroup exhibiting a primary deficit restricted to grammar (Grammatical[G]-SLI). Method Fourteen children (mostly teenagers) with G-SLI were compared to age-, vocabulary-, and grammar-matched control ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2009
Backward and Simultaneous Masking in Children With Grammatical Specific Language Impairment: No Simple Link Between Auditory and Language Abilities
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Stuart Rosen
    University College London
  • Alan Adlard
    University College London
  • Heather K. J. van der Lely
    University College London
  • Contact authors: Stuart Rosen, Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, University College London, 2 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PF, England. E-mail: stuart@phon.ucl.ac.uk.
  • Heather K.J. van der Lely, Centre for Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 2 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PF, England. E-mail: h.vanderlely@dldcn.org.
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2009
Backward and Simultaneous Masking in Children With Grammatical Specific Language Impairment: No Simple Link Between Auditory and Language Abilities
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 396-411. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0114)
History: Received June 16, 2008 , Accepted August 13, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 396-411. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0114)
History: Received June 16, 2008; Accepted August 13, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 23

Purpose We investigated claims that specific language impairment (SLI) typically arises from nonspeech auditory deficits by measuring tone-in-noise thresholds in a relatively homogeneous SLI subgroup exhibiting a primary deficit restricted to grammar (Grammatical[G]-SLI).

Method Fourteen children (mostly teenagers) with G-SLI were compared to age-, vocabulary-, and grammar-matched control children on their abilities to detect a brief tone in quiet and in the presence of a masking noise. The tone occurred either simultaneously with the noise or just preceding it (backward masking). Maskers with and without a spectral notch allowed estimates of frequency selectivity.

Results Group thresholds for the G-SLI children were never worse than those obtained for younger controls but were higher in both backward and simultaneous masking than in age-matched controls. However, more than half of the G-SLI group (8/14) were within age-appropriate limits for all thresholds. Frequency selectivity in the G-SLI group was normal. Within control and G-SLI groups, no threshold correlated with measures of vocabulary, grammar, or phonology. Nor did the language deficit in the G-SLI children vary with the presence or absence of auditory deficits.

Conclusion The auditory processing deficits sometimes found in children with SLI appear unlikely to cause or maintain the language impairment.

Acknowledgments
This study and the second and third authors were supported by The Wellcome Trust Grants 063713 and 044179/Z/95 to the third author, with further support provided by Grant 046823/Z/96 to the first author. We thank the teachers, therapists, and children at the following schools for their help and cooperation: Moor House School, Hurst Green; Dawn House School, Nottingham; Thornhill Primary School, London; The London Oratory School, London; and Nower Hill High School, Pinner, Middlesex. Much appreciation is expressed to Bev Wright, Doug Hartley, Jeff Marler, and Penny Hill, who graciously supplied their original data for reanalysis.
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