Neuropsychological profile of pre-schoolers with metaphonological difficulties: results from a non-clinical sample

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BackgroundThe level of language development reached in pre-school age is considered the most reliable predictor of reading acquisition. In normally developing children, learning to read is strongly related to early language skills, and in particular to phonological processing abilities. In dyslexic children, reading abilities seem to show a correlation with phonological awareness.MethodsA group of 65 children (aged 5–6 years) were recruited and submitted to an in-depth neuropsychological assessment [i.e. metaphonological skills, intelligence, verbal short-term memory (VSTM) and other aspects of receptive and expressive language]. We were able to identify 14 children with significant metaphonological difficulties (MD): 11 children with exclusively MD, and the other three children with specific language impairment. This study compares the neuropsychological profile obtained from children with MD with that of a peer group without any language impairment (N).ResultsThe performances of the MD were within the normal ability range in almost all the administered tests but significantly lower compared with those of their peers without language impairment (N) in some items of the intelligence scale (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence) and in the tests of VSTM and of receptive/expressive language. Nevertheless, there were not statistically significant differences between MD and N in output phonology.ConclusionsIn pre-school age, in a group of non-clinical children, with a range of abilities, those with MD appear to be at the lower end of the normal range in many other verbal skills. These children could be considered at-risk for possible subsequent difficulties learning to read and thus need to be identified and to warrant prompt treatment.

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