A possible relationship between early speech perception and later language development in Dutch children with and without a familial risk of dyslexia
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Developmental dyslexia is a disorder that manifests itself by severe problems with reading and writing. It has been hypothesized that early speech perception is impaired in individuals with dyslexia. It has also been found that children with a familial risk of dyslexia show delays in their early language development, which might be precursors of dyslexia. In this study, the language development at toddler age of children with and without a familial risk of dyslexia is investigated, as well as the possibility of a relationship between early speech discrimination abilities at infant age and language development at toddler age. 48 Dutch monolingual children with and without a familial risk of dyslexia at the ages of 3;6 tot 4;6 were tested on receptive vocabulary size, verbal short‐term memory, morpho‐syntactic production, word retrieval speed and cognitive control of selective attention. These children had participated in a speech sound discrimination experiment (De Klerk et al., in prep) at the ages of 6 to 8 months. They were tested on their abilities to discriminate between alternating and non‐alternating trials of native and non‐native sound contrasts. No group differences in performance on the tasks at toddler age were found. In de speech discrimination experiment, the sample of infants of this study showed sensitivity to the native sound contrast at the ages of 6 and 8 months. They did not show sensitivity to the non‐native sound contrast at the ages of 6 and 8 months. A negative correlation was found between looking time difference on the native sound contrast at the age of 6 months and the performance on the PPVT, which measures receptive vocabulary size. A positive correlation was found between looking time difference on the non‐native sound contrast at the age of 8 months and the performance on the non‐word repetition task. No other correlations between performance at infant age and performance at toddler age were found. This resulted in the conclusion that, for this sample of children, there is no reliable evidence for a relationship between early speech perception and later language development.