The literacy skills of 56 school leavers from the Bishop and Edmundson (1987) cohort of preschoolers with specific language impairment (SLI) were assessed at 15 years. The SLI group performed worse on tests of reading, spelling, and reading comprehension than age-matched controls and the literacy outcomes were particularly poor for those with Performance IQ less than 100. The rate of specific reading retardation in the SLI group had increased between the ages of 8½ and 15 years and there had been a substantial drop in reading accuracy, relative to age. However, over 35% had reading skills within the normal range and those who had had isolated impairments of expressive phonology had a particularly good outcome. Our findings highlight the limitations of discrepancy definitions of dyslexia that do not take account of the changing demands of reading over time. We argue that children's phonological difficulties place them at risk of literacy failure at the outset of reading and that later, impairments of other language skills compromise development to adult levels of fluency.
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