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Musical rhythmic grouping production in DLD (Kreidler et al., 2023)

posted on 2023-09-25, 18:29 authored by Kathryn Kreidler, Janet Vuolo, Lisa Goffman

Purpose: Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) show evidence of domain-general deficits in sequentially patterned motor skills. This study focuses on the production of rhythmically grouped sequences drawn from a music task, with the hypothesis that children with DLD will show a sequential pattern learning deficit that crosses language and action domains.

Method: Fifty-seven 4- to 5-year-old children (36 with DLD) drummed and clapped a developmentally appropriate musical rhythmic sequence 24 times (clapped 12 times, drummed 12 times). The accuracy of rhythmic events (markings of claps, drums, and pauses in a target sequence) was assessed through a modification of classic speech and language transcription procedures. The variability and prosodic structure of the rhythmic groupings were also measured.

Results: Children with DLD produced less accurate and more variable rhythmic groupings compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. While the final-position grouping of the sequence was especially vulnerable for all children, those with DLD included more co-occurring errors in initial and final groupings of the same rhythmic sequence. Both TD children and children with DLD were less accurate in the clapping than the drumming task. Neither rhythmic drumming nor clapping accuracy correlated with motor skill in either group of children.

Conclusions: This study provides novel evidence of a manual rhythmic grouping deficit in DLD, one that is motivated by language—not motor or speech—factors. Cognitive abilities necessary to organize rhythmic events into higher order groupings are impaired across music and language in children with DLD. Rhythmic organization and sequencing may serve an important role in diagnosis and intervention in this population.

Supplemental Material S1. Motor and rhythmic accuracy means, standard deviations, and correlations in TD group (n = 21).

Supplemental Material S2. Motor and rhythmic accuracy means, standard deviations, and correlations in DLD group (n = 33).

Supplemental Material S3. Speech sound and rhythmic accuracy means, standard deviations, and correlations in DLD group (n = 36).

Kreidler, K., Vuolo, J., & Goffman, L. (2023). Children with developmental language disorder show deficits in the production of musical rhythmic groupings. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants R01 DC004826 and R01 DC016813, awarded to Lisa Goffman.