This study compared the oral narrative skills of 31 school-aged children diagnosed at 24 to 31 months with expressive language delay (late talkers) with those of 23 typically developing peers. Based upon an extensively studied picture-book task, Frog, Where are You?, narratives were elicited from all participants both at age 8 and age 9. At age 9, children were asked to tell the story again and to increase their references to evaluative information (characters' emotions, character speech, and causal explanations of events; “supported” telling condition). Groups were compared on Syntax, Story Grammar, Cohesion, and Evaluative Information factor scores derived from the narrative measures. Children with histories of early language delay obtained lower Syntax, Story Grammar, and Evaluative Information factor scores than typically developing peers for each of their three narrative productions. The late talkers scored in the average range at age 8 on the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–Revised (CELF-R), but their scores were significantly lower than those of the comparison peers. When the group differences on the Story Grammar factor were reanalyzed with the CELF-R score as a covariate, the late talkers demonstrated weaknesses in story grammar skills independent of the variance accounted for by their weaker general language skills. This suggests that the use of narrative structure may be a specific area of underachievement for late talkers, in addition to their continuing weakness in syntactic and lexical abilities, relative to typically developing peers from the same SES background.
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