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Literacy-supporting skills in college students with specific reading comprehension deficit and developmental language disorder

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Abstract

Specific reading comprehension deficit (S-RCD) and developmental language disorder (DLD) are both commonly occurring developmental disorders of language. The ways in which these disorders do and do not overlap during childhood are a matter of debate (Nation & Norbury, 2005). Moreover, in both populations, the challenges faced by individuals in adulthood are understudied. Here, we combined data across cohorts of college students, and classified individuals with only S-RCD (n = 20), only DLD (n = 55), and co-occurring S-RCD and DLD (n = 13). Individuals with good language and reading skills, who matched those with S-RCD on decoding, comprised our typical language and reading group (TD; n = 20). Beyond the measures used for classification, group-level differences were identified in sentence-level reading fluency, phonological processing, verbal working memory, and rapid automatized naming. We found that skill profiles differed across groups; however, we found no evidence of weaknesses beyond the core deficit in reading comprehension observed in those with only S-RCD. In contrast, when S-RCD co-occurs with DLD, weaknesses are observed in phonological processing, as well as reading fluency and verbal working memory. These findings suggest that some adults with S-RCD have co-occurring DLD as a core weakness. These findings, as well as differences between individuals with S-RCD and DLD, are further discussed.

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Data availability

A subset of the key data presented in this manuscript has been made publically available in .csv format (https://github.com/fsearle/S-RCD_DLD_AD). To protect confidentiality of our participants, we have removed age, gender, and collection site.

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Acknowledgments

The data collection of this work was carried out at the University of Connecticut and the University of Delaware. The authors would like to thank M. Speed and J. Joseph, E. Fritzson, K. Collins, J. Fritz, S. Hause, and E. Virok, for their exceptional work on administering, scoring, and rescoring standardized assessments.

Funding

The portion of this work that was carried out at the University of Connecticut was supported by the American Speech and Hearing Foundation scholarship to F.S.E., National Institutes of Health F31DC014194 to F.S.E., and R01 DC013064 and faculty start-up funding from the University of Connecticut to E.B.M. The portion of this work that was carried out at the University of Delaware was supported by National Institutes of Health R21DC016391 to F.S.E. and faculty start-up funding from the University of Delaware to F.S.E.

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Both authors contributed equally to this work, including in the data collection, analyses, interpretation, and the preparation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to F. Sayako Earle.

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All study procedures were approved by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at the University of Connecticut and the University of Delaware.

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The code used for statistical analyses has been made publicly available (https://github.com/fsearle/S-RCD_DLD_AD).

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Earle, F.S., Del Tufo, S.N. Literacy-supporting skills in college students with specific reading comprehension deficit and developmental language disorder. Ann. of Dyslexia 71, 282–298 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-020-00211-z

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