Oral and Written Story Composition Skills of Children With Language Impairment

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In this study 538 children composed 1 oral and 1 written fictional story in both 2nd and 4th grades. Each child represented 1 of 4 diagnostic groups: typical language (TL), specific language impairment (SLI), nonspecific language impairment (NLI), or low nonverbal IQ (LNIQ). The stories of the TL group had more different words, more grammatical complexity, fewer errors, and more overall quality than either language-impaired group at either grade. Stories of the SLI and LNIQ groups were consistently stronger than were those of the NLI group. Kindergarten children with language impairment (LI) whose standardized test performance suggested normalization by 2nd grade also appeared to have recovered in storytelling abilities at that point. By 4th grade, however, these children's stories were less like the children with TL and more like those of children with persistent LI than they had been in 2nd grade. Oral stories were better than written stories in both grades, although the greatest gains from 2nd to 4th grade were generally made on written stories. Girls told stronger stories than did boys at both grades, regardless of group placement. It is concluded that story composition tasks are educationally relevant and should play a significant role in the evaluation of children with developmental LI.