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How to Address Specific Language Impairments in Children

presented by Sean Redmond, PhD, CCC-SLP

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Disclosure Statement:

Financial: Sean Redmond receives compensation from MedBridge for this course. There is no financial interest beyond the production of this course.

Non-Financial: Sean Redmond has no competing non-financial interests or relationships with regard to the content presented in this course.

Satisfactory completion requirements: All disciplines must complete learning assessments to be awarded credit, no minimum score required unless otherwise specified within the course.

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How should we address those children on our caseloads who seem to be struggling with language development for no good reason? Specific language impairment (SLI) is the term currently used to refer to cases of disrupted language development in the absence of any clear causal mechanism (e.g. intellectual disability, environmental deprivation, hearing impairment, socioemotional disorder). Although SLI has been widely recognized by researchers as a common communication disorder that affects more individuals than autism, Down syndrome, stuttering, and traumatic brain injury combined most people have never heard of SLI. This course presents current evidence regarding the epidemiology, clinical features, associated academic and socioemotional consequences, and theoretical explanations of SLI. Ongoing disagreements among researchers and clinicians on how best to refer to and manage children affected by idiopathic language impairments call into question the future of SLI as a clinical designation.

Meet Your Instructor

Sean Redmond, PhD, CCC-SLP

Sean Redmond received his B.A. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1990, his M.A. in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Kansas in 1993, and his Ph.D. in Child Language from the University of Kansas in 1997. He teaches and conducts research in the Department of Communication…

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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1. Introduction

In this chapter, we will discuss a case example taken from Dr. Redmond's research. This case study will introduce specific language impairments and how to address them.

2. Epidemiology and Primary Clinical Features of SLI

This chapter begins with a brief presentation of how idiopathic language impairments have been treated within different clinical taxonomies (DSM, ICD, and IDEA) and concludes that consistent nomenclature continues to elude us. This represents a problem unique to the study and treatment of pediatric language disorders that does not exist for other neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. ADHD, autism). Fortunately, under the SLI designation, the research literature has successfully arrived at a constellation of linguistic symptoms commonly associated with this neurodevelopmental profile. Practitioners can use these symptoms to identify cases of SLI.

3. Academic and Socioemotional Consequences of SLI

This chapter surveys the available evidence regarding the extent to which children with SLI are at increased risk for academic and socioemotional difficulties over their educational careers. In order to optimize educational outcomes, it is important to differentiate difficulties which represent the secondary consequences of children’s primary language impairments from difficulties which arise due to comorbidity.

4. Theories of SLI

Various explanations have been offered to account for the phenomenon of SLI. This chapter summarizes the evidence regarding environmental and genetic contributions to children’s linguistic symptoms. Most theories of SLI can be broadly categorized into either information processing based explanations or linguistic/representational based explanations. These theories present practitioners with different implications for assessment and intervention.

5. Conclusions: The Future of SLI as a Clinical Designation

Despite an evidence base that stretches back more than 40 years, the term SLI has yet to catch on with practitioners in the field. In this chapter, possibilities for moving forward from this stalemate are considered. A pressing concern among some stakeholders is whether the term SLI should be retained to refer to cases of idiopathic language impairments or if it needs to be replaced with a more successful term. For others, research into the nature of pediatric language impairments needs to abandon the distinction between idiopathic and other types of language impairment and extend inquiry to include cases of concomitant deficits. In any event, whatever we choose to call them, the children who struggle with language development for no good reason will continue to need timely clinical services in order to optimize their academic and socioemotional outcomes.

6. Q&A Discussion

The course will conclude with a question and answer session with Kate Krings, a clinical instructor at the University of Washington.

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