Explaining Reading Comprehension in Children With Developmental Language Disorder: The Importance of Elaborative Inferencing

Dr. Sheila Maria Gough Kenyon, Olympia Palikara, Rebecca Lucas

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Purpose: Reading comprehension is a key indicator of academic and psychosocial outcomes. Children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) tend to find reading comprehension challenging. This study aimed to explore the literal and inferential (cohesive, elaborative and lexical) comprehension of children with DLD, their typically developing (TD) peers and, uniquely, a group of Low-Language (LL) children. Method: Children aged 10-11 with either typical development (n = 16), LL (n = 14) or DLD (n = 14) were recruited from eight primary schools. They completed a battery of standardized language and literacy assessments. Responses to literal and inferential questions on the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-UK (WIAT-UK; Wechsler, 2005) were analyzed. Results: A disproportionate difficulty in answering inferential relative to literal questions was found for the DLD group compared to LL and TD peers. Children with DLD were significantly poorer at elaborative inferencing than both their LL and TD peers, but there were no group differences in cohesive or lexical inferencing. There was a significant positive association between inferencing ability and vocabulary knowledge, single word reading accuracy, grammatical skill and verbal working memory. The importance of single word reading accuracy was especially evident as a partial mediator of the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and inferencing ability. Conclusions: These results indicate that interventions targeting the reading comprehension of children with DLD should focus on elaborative inferencing skill. There are also clinical implications as the development of new standardized assessments differentiating between inference types is called for.

© 2018, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The attached document (embargoed until 26/04/2019) is an author produced version of a paper published in JOURNAL OF SPEECH, LANGUAGE, AND HEARING RESEARCH uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2018


  • Developmental Language Disorder
  • Low language
  • Reading comprehension
  • Inferencing
  • Elaborative inferencing
  • Inferencing deficit

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