Understanding developmental language disorder - the Helsinki longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI): a study protocol
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BACKGROUND: Developmental language disorder (DLD, also called specific language impairment, SLI) is a common developmental disorder comprising the largest disability group in pre-school-aged children. Approximately 7% of the population is expected to have developmental language difficulties. However, the specific etiological factors leading to DLD are not yet known and even the typical linguistic features appear to vary by language. We present here a project that investigates DLD at multiple levels of analysis and aims to make the reliable prediction and early identification of the difficulties possible. Following the multiple deficit model of developmental disorders, we investigate the DLD phenomenon at the etiological, neural, cognitive, behavioral, and psychosocial levels, in a longitudinal study of preschool children. METHODS: In January 2013, we launched the Helsinki Longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI) at the Helsinki University Hospital ( http://tiny.cc/HelSLI ). We will study 227 children aged 3-6 years with suspected DLD and their 160 typically developing peers. Five subprojects will determine how the child's psychological characteristics and environment correlate with DLD and how the child's well-being relates to DLD, the characteristics of DLD in monolingual versus bilingual children, nonlinguistic cognitive correlates of DLD, electrophysiological underpinnings of DLD, and the role of genetic risk factors. Methods include saliva samples, EEG, computerized cognitive tasks, neuropsychological and speech and language assessments, video-observations, and questionnaires. DISCUSSION: The project aims to increase our understanding of the multiple interactive risk and protective factors that affect the developing heterogeneous cognitive and behavioral profile of DLD, including factors affecting literacy development. This accumulated knowledge will form a heuristic basis for the development of new interventions targeting linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of DLD.
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