Teenage outcomes after speech and language impairment at preschool age
Ulla Ek1, Fritjof Norrelgen3,4, Joakim Westerlund2, Andrea Dahlman5, Elizabeth Hultby5, Elisabeth Fernell6
1Department of Special Education, 2Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; 3Department of Speech and Language Pathology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; 4Department of Clinical Neuroscience, 5CLINTEC/Division of Speech and Language Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; 6The Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg and the Research and Development Centre, Skaraborg Hospital, Skövde, Sweden
Aim: Ten years ago, we published developmental data on a representative group of children (n = 25) with moderate or severe speech and language impairment, who were attending special preschools for children. The aim of this study was to perform a follow-up of these children as teenagers.
Methods: Parents of 23 teenagers participated in a clinical interview that requested information on the child's current academic achievement, type of school, previous clinical assessments, and developmental diagnoses. Fifteen children participated in a speech and language evaluation, and 13 participated in a psychological evaluation.
Results: Seven of the 23 teenagers had a mild intellectual disability, and another three had borderline intellectual functioning. Nine had symptoms of disorders on the autism spectrum; five of these had an autism spectrum disorder, and four had clear autistic traits. Six met criteria for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/subthreshold ADHD. Thirteen of 15 teenagers had a moderate or severe language impairment, and 13 of 15 had a moderate or severe reading impairment. Overlapping disorders were frequent. None of the individuals who underwent the clinical evaluation were free from developmental problems.
Conclusion: A large number of children with speech and language impairment at preschool age had persistent language problems and/or met the criteria for developmental diagnoses other than speech and language impairment at their follow-up as teenagers. Language impairment in young children is a marker for several developmental disorders, particularly intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.
Keywords: language impairment, dyslexia, developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, follow-up
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