Specific Language Impairment as a Clinical Category An Introduction Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum  |   April 01, 1991
Specific Language Impairment as a Clinical Category
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alan G. Kamhi
    Memphis State University
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Clinical Forum: Specific Language Impairment as a Clinical Category
Clinical Forum   |   April 01, 1991
Specific Language Impairment as a Clinical Category
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 1991, Vol. 22, 65. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.2202.65
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 1991, Vol. 22, 65. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.2202.65
This clinical forum has its origins in Leonard’s (1987)  paper in which he argued that the notion of specific language impairment was of questionable value as a guiding principle for conducting causal-based research and for providing clinical services to children with this condition. Leonard is not alone in questioning the construct of a specific language impairment. Lahey (1990), in a recent paper, bemoans the confusion in the field caused by the different criteria used to identify children with language disorders.
Leonard devoted much of his 1987 paper to a review of the evidence pertaining to three prominent causal explanations of specific language impairment: (a) a deficient communicative environment, (b) difficulty perceiving rapid acoustic events, and (c) a pervasive symbolic deficit that affects nonlinguistic as well as linguistic areas. Leonard concluded that these explanations fall short “not only because they fail to identify the proper cause of this condition [(i.e., specific language impairment)], but also because they assume that the condition is one for which a tangible cause must exist” (p. 30). Leonard suggested an alternative view, based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, that children’s language limitations are the product of the same types of variations in genetic and environmental factors that lead some children to be poor in musical, artistic, or bodily kinesthetic abilities.
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