Classification of Developmental Language Disorders: Theoretical Issues and Clinical Implications

By Ludo Verhoeven; Hans Van Balkom | Go to book overview

18
The Close Association Between
Classification and Intervention
for Children With Primary
Language Impairments
James Law
City University, London

It is quite clear that it is possible to identify a group of children for whom language and communication abilities are somehow different from their other skills. We have the discrepancy scores on a range of standardized measures to prove it. We have made a differential diagnosis that the child does not have a secondary language difficulty,1 and therefore we feel secure in concluding that we have identified a primary speech and/or language impairment, even a specific language impairment (SLI). There is something so intrinsically appealing about the concept of a discrete language difficulty that many authors have overlooked that the defining of language impairment is at best an imprecise art that is highly dependent on measurement of constructs about which we still know so little. One of the main diagnostic/classificatory challenges is the need to distinguish between permanent and transient manifestations of the condition in the earlier years. There remains a cognitive dissonance for many authors who freely accept that SLI is neither specific nor an impairment (Leonard, 1987) yet feel compelled to continue using the terminology because it has some notional clinical validity.

The argument put forward in this chapter is that it is necessary to move beyond narrow paradigmatic constructions of (specific) language impair

____________________
1
A primary language impairment is one for which there is no obvious cause. A secondary language impairment is one that can be explained in terms of another condition experienced by the child—cerebral palsy, autism, hearing loss.

-401-

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