Executive Functioning and Narrative Language in Children With Dyslexia

Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2019 Aug 9;28(3):1127-1138. doi: 10.1044/2019_AJSLP-18-0106. Epub 2019 Jun 13.


Purpose Children with dyslexia often struggle with nonphonological aspects of language and executive functioning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of executive functioning on language abilities at both structural (e.g., grammar in sentences) and functional (e.g., narrative) levels in 92 third- and 4th-grade students with dyslexia. Additionally, we asked if working memory updating contributed a significant amount of variance in narrative language ability beyond what would be expected by students' structural language skills alone. Method Students' language and executive functioning skills were evaluated using a range of language and cognitive measures including the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Fourth Edition (Semel, Wiig, & Secord, 2003), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition (Dunn & Dunn, 2007), the Test of Narrative Language (Gillam & Pearson, 2004), the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function Scale (Kaplan, Kramer, & Delis, 2001), and the Corsi Block-Tapping Test (WISC-IV Integrated; Kaplan, Fein, Kramer, Delis, & Morris, 2004). Results Low correlations between the language measures suggested that each of these assessments captures a unique element of language ability for children with dyslexia. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated that working memory updating accounted for a significant amount of unique variance in oral narrative production beyond what would be expected by structural language ability. Conclusions The range of performance found across language measures suggests that it may be important to include a variety of language measures assessing both structural and functional language skills when evaluating children with dyslexia. Including cognitive measures of executive functioning may also be key to determine if deficits in working memory updating are contributing to functional expressive language difficulties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Dyslexia / psychology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests