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Children with Specific Language Impairment: Understanding their Language Deficits

Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is a developmental language disorder in the absence of frank neurological, sensori-motor, non-verbal cognitive or social emotional deficits.  SLI affects more than 1 million students in the public schools.  The prevalence of SLI in kindergarten has been estimated to be around 7-8% (comparative prevalence estimates for Down syndrome and autism are less than 1%).

Although we study a wide range of topics related to the SLI condition, some of our research findings suggest the following:

In the Area of Vocabulary
In the Area of Grammar

Other Things to Know About SLI
SLI has many names, including developmental language disorder, primary language disorder, language delay, language processing disorder, and developmental dysphasia. Specific language impairment is the term used by many researchers; we recommend using this term when conducting a library search on the condition.

Children who are slow to talk (who are sometimes referred to as Late Talkers) are at risk for SLI, and children with SLI are at risk for later difficulties with reading. 

Children with SLI can make significant gains with early identification and intervention.  Unfortunately, approximately 70% of children who meet the eligibility criteria for SLI and who could benefit from intervention are missed through routine school screenings.

For more information about SLI, see


Language Development & Disorders Lab
32 Hatcher Hall,
Louisiana State University,
Baton Rouge, 70803

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