Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

Specific language impairment is a type of language impairment. Children and adults with SLI can have a problem with various aspects of language such as grammar (morphology, syntax and phonology). (For examples see what is language?)

SLI is diagnosed when a child has a non-verbal IQ which falls within the "normal" range for their age group but their verbal IQ is well below average. Therefore, children with SLI typically have language abilities that are significantly below their other abilities. Children diagnosed with specific language impairment (SLI) do not have other mental or physical impairments that can cause their impairment such as autism or a hearing impairment.

Since there is a discrepancy between language abilities and other abilities, children with SLI are not always recognised as having language problems. They may be assumed to have problems due to behavioural disorders (such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD), "selective hearing" or a hearing problem. This is because the child may appear to be badly behaved or not listening to instructions for example. However, they actually may be unable to understand the language that people around them are using due to their underlying weaknesses with, for example, syntax and phonology. Therefore, children with SLI may not behave as other people ask them to or expect them to in relation to their age.

Children with SLI are capable of using on their non verbal abilities effectively. This means that they are able to of develop strategies to compensate and overcome their language impairment. Therefore, these children often go undiagnosed. The GAPS assesses grammar (morphology, syntax) and phonology in such a way that children can not use strategies to give the correct answers. It requires the child to draw on their ability to use the underlying components of language. Therefore, if they have a weakness, this will show up on the GAPS test.

It is important to note that language impairments (such as SLI) often co-occur with other disorders such as ADHD and autism. The GAPS can be used to assess whether there are weaknesses in any child's ability to use grammar and put sounds together to create words, regardless of any other co occurring deficits. Therefore, the GAPS test gives an indication of language status which, together with other information from other psychometric tests, can give a better indication of a child's overall profile of abilities.