Spatio‐visual memory of children with specific language impairment: evidence for generalized processing problems Academic Article uri icon


  • Children with Specific language Impairment (SLI) have problems with verbal memory, particularly with tasks that have more processing demands. They also have slower speeds of responding for some tasks.To identify the extent to which young children with SLI would differ in performance from age-matched non-impaired children on a set of spatio-visual memory tasks. It was predicted that if memory limitations of children with SLI extend beyond the verbal domain to other domains, their performance would be significantly poorer on the spatio-visual tasks than that of the comparison group. It was also predicted that they would be slower in responding.Six spatio-visual tasks were used to compare the performance of 21 children with SLI, with a mean age of 54.1 months, and 21 age-matched non-impaired children. The tasks ranged in difficulty from simple recall to a search-based working memory task. All tasks were administered though a laptop computer and responses were non-verbal using a touch screen.The children with SLI were not significantly slower than the comparison group. However, they were significantly less accurate than the comparison group in recalling patterns, but not in recalling locations. The accuracy for both groups was lower on spatial recall than on pattern recall. The children with SLI were also significantly less able to learn to associate a particular pattern with a particular location, and to have a shorter spatial span. However, on a spatial search task testing working memory, the groups did not differ significantly.The results indicate that the memory limitations of children with SLI are not restricted to verbal memory, and this fact has implications for its aetiology. Intervention programmes for young children with SLI need to extend beyond language in order to help them develop strategies for processing information in different situations.

publication date

  • January 2005