Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 133-144

Language Abilities in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Reading Disabilities, and Normal Controls

  • Karen L. PurvisAffiliated withUniversity of Toronto
  • , Rosemary TannockAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry Research, Hospital for Sick Children

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Research has demonstrated a high prevalence of language impairments (LI) and reading disabilities (RD) in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since RD is also associated with LI, it is unclear whether the language impairments are specific to ADHD or associated with comorbid RD. The language abilities of ADHD children with and without RD were investigated in a task requiring recall of a lengthy narrative, and in tests assessing knowledge of the semantic aspects of language. The study was conducted with 50 boys—14 ADHD, 14 ADHD + RD, 8 RD, and 14 normal controls, aged 7 to 11. Children with ADHD (ADHD-only, ADHD + RD) exhibited difficulties in organizing and monitoring their story retelling. Children with RD (RD-only, ADHD + RD) demonstrated deficits in receptive and expressive semantic language abilities on the language processing tests. The comorbid group (ADHD + RD) exhibited the deficits of both ADHD and RD children. The deficiencies of ADHD children are consistent with higher-order executive function deficits while the deficits of RD children are consistent with deficits in the basic semantics of language processing.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder reading disorder language abilities narratives