Information-processing limitations have been associated with language problems in children with specific language impairment (SLI). These processing limitations may be associated with limitations in attentional capacity even in the absence of clinically significant attention deficits. In the current study, the authors examine the performance of four- to six- year old children with SLI and their typically-developing (TD) peers on a visual sustained attention task. It was predicted that the children with SLI would demonstrate lower levels of performance in the absence of clinically significant attention deficits.
A visual Continuous Performance Task (CPT) was used to assess sustained attention in 13 children with SLI (M = 62.07 months) and 13 TD age-matched controls (M = 62.92 months). All children were screened for normal vision, hearing, and attention. Accuracy (d’) and response time were analyzed to see if this sustained attention task could differentiate between the two groups.
The children with SLI were significantly less accurate but not significantly slower than the TD children on this test of visual sustained attention.
Children with SLI may have reduced capacity for sustained attention in the absence of clinically significant attention deficits that could contribute over time to language learning difficulties.