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Teenage outcomes after speech and language impairment at preschool age

Authors Ek U, Norrelgen, Westerlund J, Dahlman, Hultby, Fernell E

Received 21 January 2012

Accepted for publication 5 March 2012

Published 15 May 2012 Volume 2012:8 Pages 221—227


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

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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