Patterns of verbal and nonverbal memory and executive function predict language and literacy ability

  • Katherine Hall

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the profiles of difficulty seen in three groups of impaired children (10 – 15 years), those with language only impairment (DLD), literacy only impairment (dyslexia) and comorbid literacy and language impairment (D-DLD). The aim of the project is to establish whether or not distinct profiles of difficulty can differentiate between groups.

Performance of the impaired groups was compared to both a chronological age
matched group (CAs) and younger literacy and language ability level groups. Performance was assessed for literacy, language, phonology, processing, short-term memory, working memory, executive function, attention and central executive measures over two time points.

The three groups showed qualitatively different profiles of impairment. They did
however share an overlap in certain difficulties which may explain their high rates of comorbidity. The DLD group showed mild difficulty in spelling, phonological awareness and
severe difficulty in language but were unimpaired in executive function, processing speed and short-term memory. The dyslexic group showed difficulty in word level literacy, phonology and verbal short-term memory. The D-DLD group showed difficulty in word level and text level literacy, phonology, language, executive function and verbal short-term memory.

This is the first project to include DLD, dyslexic, D-DLD, age-matched and ability
matched groups simultaneously. It is also the first project to compare these different groups simultaneously over an extensive battery of working memory measures. It reveals distinct patterns of difficulty, in each of the impaired groups, that has implications for models previously conceptualising the overlap between the disorders. It also has implication for intervention in the classroom based on the strengths and weaknesses revealed for each group.

Objectives: To establish the patterns of impairment in each of my groups, and to suggest implications for current conceptualisations of overlap, and methods of classroom intervention.
Date of AwardMay 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University

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