DOI: 10.1044/jslhr.4006.1245 ISSN:

Prevalence of Specific Language Impairment in Kindergarten Children

J. Bruce Tomblin, Nancy L. Records, Paula Buckwalter, Xuyang Zhang, Elaine Smith, Marlea O’Brien
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

This epidemiologic study estimated the prevalence of specific language impairment (SLI) in monolingual English-speaking kindergarten children. From a stratified cluster sample in rural, urban, and suburban areas in the upper midwest, 7,218 children were screened. The language screening failure rate was 26.2%. Children who failed the screening and a similar number of controls were then administered a diagnostic battery ( n =2,084) that provided for a diagnosis of SLI using common diagnostic standards. Results provided an estimated overall prevalence rate of 7.4%. The prevalence estimate for boys was 8% and for girls 6%. Variation in prevalence was found among children of different racial/cultural backgrounds; however, these background variables were found to be correlated with parental education, which was also associated with SLI. The parents of 29% of the children identified as SLI reported they had previously been informed that their child had a speech or language problem.

The prevalence estimates obtained fell within recent estimates for SLI, but demonstrated that this condition is more prevalent among females than has been previously reported. Also, the clinical identification of these children remains low among kindergarteners.

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