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Word learning in DLD or dyslexia (Adlof et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-06-29, 20:03 authored by Suzanne M. Adlof, Lauren S. Baron, Bethany A. Bell, Joanna Scoggins
Purpose: Word learning difficulties have been documented in multiple studies involving children with dyslexia and developmental language disorder (DLD; see also specific language impairment). However, no previous studies have directly contrasted word learning in these two frequently co-occurring disorders. We examined word learning in second-grade students with DLD-only and dyslexia-only as compared to each other, peers with both disorders (DLD + dyslexia), and peers with typical development. We hypothesized that children with dyslexia-only and DLD-only would show differences in word learning due to differences in their core language strengths and weaknesses.
Method: Children (N = 244) were taught eight novel pseudowords paired with unfamiliar objects. The teaching script included multiple exposures to the phonological form, the pictured object, a verbal semantic description of the object, and spaced retrieval practice opportunities. Word learning was assessed immediately after instruction with tasks requiring recall or recognition of the phonological and semantic information.
Results: Children with dyslexia-only performed significantly better on existing vocabulary measures than their peers with DLD-only. On experimental word learning measures, children in the dyslexia-only and DLD + dyslexia groups showed significantly poorer performance than typically developing children on all word learning tasks. Children with DLD-only differed significantly from the TD group on a single word learning task assessing verbal semantic recall.
Conclusions: Overall, results indicated that children with dyslexia display broad word learning difficulties extending beyond the phonological domain; however, this contrasted with their relatively strong performance on measures of existing vocabulary knowledge. More research is needed to understand relations between word learning abilities and overall vocabulary knowledge and how to close vocabulary gaps for children with both disorders.

Supplemental Material S1. Analyses using more restrictive inclusionary criteria, as is common in studies of specific language impairment (SLI; i.e., nonverbal intelligence scores > 85). The document contains three tables:
A. Descriptive statistics and group comparisons for subgrouping and descriptive assessments using SLI criteria;
B. One-way ANOVA summary table examining group differences for the primary outcome for each word learning task using SLI criteria; and
C. Primary accuracy scores of word learning tasks by group using SLI criteria; Effect size and significance of pairwise comparisons.

Supplemental Material S2. Additional information about the word learning training script.

Adlof, S. M., Baron, L. S., Bell, B. A., & Scoggins, J. (2021). Spoken word learning in children with developmental language disorder or dyslexia. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders under Awards R03DC013399 and R01DC017156 (Principal Investigator: Adlof).