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Working memory and linguistic performance of dual language learners with and without developmental language disorders

Purpose: This research note describes the use of working memory measures as potential indicators of developmental language disorders (DLD) in preschool-age dual language learners from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. This report is an extension of early work, completed by the same authors that described the diagnostic accuracy of a Spanish nonword repetition task. Method: One hundred thirty Spanish-speaking families with preschool-age children participated; 37 children had DLD, and 93 were typically developing. Families were recruited from early childhood programs in three states in the western region of the United States. Working memory and linguistic measures were collected from the children; parents completed a vocabulary checklist and reported on their child's longest utterances. Results: Nonverbal working memory was not associated with other measures, but verbal working memory was associated with linguistic measures. Although there were no group differences on nonverbal working memory, group differences (DLD vs. typical development) were detected on verbal working memory and linguistic measures. Verbal working memory combined with vocabulary scores resulted in 79% of cases correctly classified. Conclusions: Working memory tasks yielded different results depending on the type of task (verbal vs. nonverbal). Outcomes from this study showed that a nonverbal working memory task (hand movement) was not useful in distinguishing preschool-age dual language children with DLD from typical peers, but a verbal working memory task (nonword repetition) may be useful if combined with other more robust linguistic measures. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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