Background: A number of different systems have been suggested for classifying language impairment in children but, to date, no one system has been widely accepted.
Method: This paper outlines an alternative system looking for distinct patterns of change in receptive language skills across time, involving a secondary analysis of children identified as having specific language impairment. Participants The participants were 184 children age-assessed at 3 time points--7, 8, and 11 years of age.
Results: The pattern of receptive language development is highly predictable. The dominant pattern of growth is consistent with declining rates of growth over time for all children. The primary way in which the children differ is with respect to their initial severity. The testing of the 2 classification systems revealed some statistically significant differences among the subtypes with regard to the shape of the growth rates, but the effect sizes associated with these differences were very small. Thus, it is possible to conclude that beyond the dominant pattern of growth, some subtypes of language impairment at 7 years of age showed only subtle differences in receptive language change across time. The results are discussed in terms of the sample selection and the age of the children who were studied.