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Verbal mediation of cognition in children with specific language impairment

  • Jane S. M. Lidstone (a1), Elizabeth Meins (a1) and Charles Fernyhough (a1)

Private speech (PS) and inner speech (IS) are thought to be functionally important for children's and adults’ cognition, but they have not been studied systematically in children with specific language impairment (SLI). Participants were 21 children with SLI (7–11 years, expressive or receptive verbal IQ ≤ 75, nonverbal IQ ≥ 84) and 21 age- and nonverbal IQ-matched controls. Participants completed three sets of Tower of London problems: one with no dual task (PS condition), one with articulatory suppression, and one while foot tapping (control condition). Participants also completed a digit span task. There was no group difference in the susceptibility of Tower of London performance to articulatory suppression, but the PS of the SLI group was less internalized than that of the controls on both tasks. The findings suggest that children with SLI experience a significant delay in the development of PS/IS, but that their PS/IS is effective for Tower of London performance in middle childhood. Findings are discussed with reference to the interpretation of the nonlinguistic deficits associated with SLI, and in terms of clinical implications.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jane Lidstone, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT, UK; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
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