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Language problems at 2.5 years of age and their relationship to early school-age language impairment and neuropsychiatric disorders

Participants: Carmela Miniscalco & Christopher Gillberg.

Background: Sweden is the only country that has a general screening of all children's language at 2.5 or 3 years of age. Research has shown that language impairment (LI) in children has a negative impact on social development, cognitive development and academic achievement.

Method: 25 children with positive screening (= language problems) and 80 screen-negative children (according to the 2.5-year language screening performed at Child Health Centres) constituted the study population. At the six-year examination, the follow-up group consisted of 99 children - 22 children from the LI group and 77 children from the screening-negative group. The seven- to eight-year-old follow-up concerned 21 of the 22 children with LI who participated at age six years. All of these children were examined multidisciplinary by a speech and language pathologist, a neuropsychologist and a physician at the child neuropsychiatric clinic in Gothenburg with an extensive battery of tests and interview forms.

Results: It is possible to reliably identify children with developmental language disability at age 2.5 through the screening programme. Children who failed the 2.5-year screening had persistent language problems at age six years. More than half of these children who screened positive for speech and language problems before age three years also had ASD or ADHD when assessed by a multidisciplinary team. They also had persisting difficulties with oral narrative skills, problems with literacy and non-word repetition.


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Miniscalco, C., & Dahlgren Sandberg, A. (2010). Basic reading skills in Swedish children with late developing language and with or without autism spectrum disorder or ADHD. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 31, 1054–1061.

Miniscalco, C., & Gillberg, C. (2009). Non-word repetition in young school-age children with language impairment and/or neuropsychiatric disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30, 1145-1154.

Miniscalco, C., Hagberg, B., Kadesjö, B., Westerlund, M., & Gillberg, C. (2007). Narrative skills, cognitive profiles and neuropsychiatric disorders in 7-8 year old children with late developing language. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 42, 665-681.

Miniscalco, C., Nygren, G., Hagberg, B., Kadesjö, B., & Gillberg, C. (2006). Neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental outcome of children at age 6 and 7 years who screened positive for language problems at 30 months. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 48, 361-366.

Miniscalco, C., Westerlund, M., & Lohmander, A. (2005). Language skills at age 6 years in Swedish children screened for language delay at 2½ years of age. Acta Paediatrica 94, 1798-1806.

Mattsson, C.M., Mårild, S., & Pehrsson, N.G. (2001). Evaluation of a language screening programme for 2.5-year-olds at Child Health Centres in Sweden. Acta Paediatrica 90, 339-344.


Page Manager: Anna Spyrou|Last update: 9/11/2014

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