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IQ Can’t Explain Everything: Withdrawal in Children with Language Impairment

In a recent study Bonnie Brinton and Martin Fujiki, professors in the Department of Communication Disorders, placed students with language impairment (LI) in subgroups based on IQ and tested them to see if their level of withdrawn behavior was related to their nonverbal IQ levels. These groups included children with specific language impairment (SLI) (nonverbal IQ at or above 85) and nonspecific language impairment (NLI) (nonverbal IQ between 70 and 84). Brinton and Fujiki found that students with lower IQ scores were not more withdrawn than students with higher IQ scores. The study showed that IQ alone does not necessarily predict withdrawal, which includes behaviors such as shyness. “This is partly due to the nature of IQ tests,” says Fujiki. “It serves as further proof that IQ level alone does not predict social abilities in children with LI.”

LI is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to use language and to interact with others. Language in any form is difficult for someone with LI. Those who study LI often separate it into the two subcategories described above. Unlike many other language disorders, SLI is considered “pure,” meaning it is not related to or caused by any other disorders or conditions--physical or mental. This condition makes it difficult for a person to communicate, but its existence indicates no other disability. NLI is often thought to be a more pervasive problem. This study shows that children with SLI and NLI do not differ in their level of withdrawn behavior.

"Language is an important aspect in so many areas."Children with LI struggle socially because of their difficulty with language, especially during middle school years when world play, sarcasm, and other language devices come into popular use. For children with LI, learning and understanding this language usage will plateau at an earlier age than it does their peers. “Language is an important aspect in so many areas,” says Martin Fujiki. Communication, whether written or verbal, is an essential part of everyday life that presents a critical challenge for people with SLI, NLI, and other language impairments.

When children with SLI were grouped by IQ, Brinton and Fujiki were able to study what the language disorder meant for their level of withdrawn behavior. “We found that while children with SLI were likely to have more severe social withdrawal symptoms than children with no disability, their nonverbal IQ was not a determining factor,” says Fujiki. This study has shown that a child’s intelligence does not lessen his or her social struggles.

Brinton and Fujiki recently presented “Withdrawn Behavior in Children with SLI and NLI,” a study on withdrawn and sociable behaviors in children with language disorders, at the national convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Philadelphia. Heather Haskins, Patricia Moses, Rachel Johnston, and Nicole Weber, alumni of the McKay School of Education and the Department of Communication Disorders, were co-authors.

18 July 2011