Twenty-year follow-up of children with and without speech-language impairments: family, educational, occupational, and quality of life outcomes

Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2010 Feb;19(1):51-65. doi: 10.1044/1058-0360(2009/08-0083). Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Purpose: Parents, professionals, and policy makers need information on the long-term prognosis for children with communication disorders. Our primary purpose in this report was to help fill this gap by profiling the family, educational, occupational, and quality of life outcomes of young adults at 25 years of age (N = 244) from the Ottawa Language Study, a 20-year, prospective, longitudinal study of a community sample of individuals with (n = 112) and without (n = 132) a history of early speech and/or language impairments. A secondary purpose of this report was to use data from earlier phases of the study to predict important, real-life outcomes at age 25.

Method: Participants were initially identified at age 5 and subsequently followed at 12, 19, and 25 years of age. Direct assessments were conducted at all 4 time periods in multiple domains (demographic, communicative, cognitive, academic, behavioral, and psychosocial).

Results: At age 25, young adults with a history of language impairments showed poorer outcomes in multiple objective domains (communication, cognitive/academic, educational attainment, and occupational status) than their peers without early communication impairments and those with early speech-only impairments. However, those with language impairments did not differ in subjective perceptions of their quality of life from those in the other 2 groups. Objective outcomes at age 25 were predicted differentially by various combinations of multiple, interrelated risk factors, including poor language and reading skills, low family socioeconomic status, low performance IQ, and child behavior problems. Subjective well-being, however, was primarily associated with strong social networks of family, friends, and others.

Conclusion: This information on the natural history of communication disorders may be useful in answering parents' questions, anticipating challenges that children with language disorders might encounter, and planning services to address those issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Family
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders* / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Occupations
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Speech Disorders* / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult