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Two groups of children who were slow in expressive language development (SELD) at age 2 and a matched group of toddlers with normal language were re-evaluated at age 4. Assessment included measures of productive syntactic skills in spontaneous speech and narrative abilities in a standard story retelling task. Four-year-olds who continued to perform below the normal range in sentence structure production scored significantly lower than their normally speaking peers on all measures of narrative skill. Children who were slow to begin talking at age 2 but who, by age 4, had moved into the normal range in basic sentence structure production showed no statistically significant differences, in terms of several of the measures of narrative ability, from either normally speaking 4-year-olds or from the group with persistent delay. The implications of these findings for the management of early language delay and its relation to school learning disability are discussed.


Originally published:

Paul, Rhea, Smith, R.L. "Narrative Skills in 4-Year-Olds With Normal, Impaired, and Late-Developing Language." Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 36.3 (1993): 592-598.