Weaknesses in Lexical-Semantic Knowledge Among College Students With Specific Learning Disabilities: Evidence From a Semantic Fluency Task Purpose The purpose of this study is to determine whether deficits in executive function and lexical-semantic memory compromise the linguistic performance of young adults with specific learning disabilities (LD) enrolled in postsecondary studies. Method One hundred eighty-five students with LD (n = 53) or normal language development (ND, ... Research Article
Research Article  |   March 01, 2017
Weaknesses in Lexical-Semantic Knowledge Among College Students With Specific Learning Disabilities: Evidence From a Semantic Fluency Task
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jessica Hall
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Karla K. McGregor
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Jacob Oleson
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Jessica Hall: jessica-e-hall@uiowa.edu
  • Editor: Sean Redmond
    Editor: Sean Redmond×
  • Associate Editor: Janna Oetting
    Associate Editor: Janna Oetting×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   March 01, 2017
Weaknesses in Lexical-Semantic Knowledge Among College Students With Specific Learning Disabilities: Evidence From a Semantic Fluency Task
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, March 2017, Vol. 60, 640-653. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0440
History: Received December 22, 2015 , Revised June 3, 2016 , Accepted August 22, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, March 2017, Vol. 60, 640-653. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-15-0440
History: Received December 22, 2015; Revised June 3, 2016; Accepted August 22, 2016

Purpose The purpose of this study is to determine whether deficits in executive function and lexical-semantic memory compromise the linguistic performance of young adults with specific learning disabilities (LD) enrolled in postsecondary studies.

Method One hundred eighty-five students with LD (n = 53) or normal language development (ND, n = 132) named items in the categories animals and food for 1 minute for each category and completed tests of lexical-semantic knowledge and executive control of memory. Groups were compared on total names, mean cluster size, frequency of embedded clusters, frequency of cluster switches, and change in fluency over time. Secondary analyses of variability within the LD group were also conducted.

Results The LD group was less fluent than the ND group. Within the LD group, lexical-semantic knowledge predicted semantic fluency and cluster size; executive control of memory predicted semantic fluency and cluster switches. The LD group produced smaller clusters and fewer embedded clusters than the ND group. Groups did not differ in switching or change over time.

Conclusions Deficits in the lexical-semantic system associated with LD may persist into young adulthood, even among those who have managed their disability well enough to attend college. Lexical-semantic deficits are associated with compromised semantic fluency, and the two problems are more likely among students with more severe disabilities.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by National Institutes of Health Grant NIH-NIDCD 5R01DC011742 awarded to Karla K. McGregor. We thank Nichole Eden and Tim Arbisi-Kelm for their assistance with data collection and coding and Katherine Gordon for her comments on the manuscript.
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