NASET News Alert

Gene Discovered In Childhood Language Disorder Provides Insight Into Reading Disorders

December 15, 2009

The recent discovery of a gene associated with specific language impairment (SLI), a disorder that delays first words in children and slows their mastery of language skills throughout their school years, offers new insight into how our genes affect language development. The finding, published in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders is the result of a collaborative team effort headed by Mabel Rice, Ph.D., a University of Kansas professor and NIDCD-funded scientist. The gene, KIAA0319, appears to play a key role in SLI, but it also plays a supporting role in other learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The finding is important for children with SLI and their families, and it is also likely to improve the classification, diagnosis, and treatment of other language, reading, and speech disorders. SLI affects an estimated 7 percent of 5-6 year olds. Yet it is often overlooked as a diagnosis because children with SLI typically don't have severe communication problems or an obvious cause for the impairment, such as hearing loss. "These children are less likely to start talking within a normal timeframe," says Dr. Rice. "They may not begin to talk until they're three or four. And when they finally do talk, they use simpler sentence structure and their grammar may seem immature." Language impairments such as SLI also appear to increase the risk for reading deficits. To read more, click here

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