Communication skills in a population of primary school-aged children raised in an area of pronounced social disadvantage
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Law, J., McBean, K. & Rush, R. (2011) Communication skills in a population of primary school-aged children raised in an area of pronounced social disadvantage, International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, vol. 46, , pp. 657-664,
Background: Previous studies have highlighted the level of communication difficulty experienced by children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, but the pattern of difficulties remains unclear. Aims: The study asks whether the performance of a community sample of children from one of the most socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Scotland is best characterized by a general delay in all areas of development, by difficulties across the more formal structural aspects of language or in phonological skills. Methods & Procedures: The study included 138 monolingual English-speaking children: 63 (45.7%) boys and 75 (54.3%) girls aged between 5 and 12 years. All children were assessed blind to educational attainment in the school. Outcomes & Results: Nearly 40% of children had delayed language development with 10% having severe difficulties. The children presented with an uneven profile with much lower structural language scores than reading, general communication skills or non-verbal performance. Although service use was high in the group as a whole, the proportion who met criteria for specific language impairment on discrepancy criteria were not those who were being referred to speech and language therapy. Conclusions & Implications: Although many children were performing well within the normal range, a substantial proportion were not, having considerable implications for the way that services are delivered to these children. Given the high prevalence of delayed structural language difficulties in this group, there is a clear need for a more universal population-based approaches to service delivery.