Associations Between Manual Dexterity and Language Ability in School-Age Children Purpose We aimed to determine whether individual differences in manual dexterity are associated with specific language skills (nonword repetition, receptive vocabulary, and receptive grammar) after controlling for nonverbal abilities (visual–spatial working memory and intelligence). Method We assessed manual dexterity using the pegboard task and examined relationships with verbal ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 24, 2018
Associations Between Manual Dexterity and Language Ability in School-Age Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Rita Obeid
    Psychology Department, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY
    The College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY
  • Patricia J. Brooks
    Psychology Department, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY
    The College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY
  • Correspondence to Rita Obeid, who is now at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH: rita.obeid@case.edu
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Editor-in-Chief: Shelley Gray
    Editor-in-Chief: Shelley Gray×
  • Editor: Kerry Ebert
    Editor: Kerry Ebert×
Article Information
Development / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 24, 2018
Associations Between Manual Dexterity and Language Ability in School-Age Children
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2018, Vol. 49, 982-994. doi:10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0124
History: Received November 14, 2017 , Revised April 28, 2018 , Accepted June 3, 2018
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2018, Vol. 49, 982-994. doi:10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0124
History: Received November 14, 2017; Revised April 28, 2018; Accepted June 3, 2018

Purpose We aimed to determine whether individual differences in manual dexterity are associated with specific language skills (nonword repetition, receptive vocabulary, and receptive grammar) after controlling for nonverbal abilities (visual–spatial working memory and intelligence).

Method We assessed manual dexterity using the pegboard task and examined relationships with verbal and nonverbal abilities in a diverse community sample of children (N = 63, mean age = 8;2 [year;months], range: 6;0–10;8) varying in language ability (Comprehensive Evaluation of Language Fundamentals–Fourth Edition core language score M = 105, range: 62–126; Semel, Wiig, & Secord, 2003).

Results Correlational analyses indicated significant relationships between manual dexterity and performance on tests of nonword repetition, receptive vocabulary, receptive grammar, and nonverbal intelligence, after controlling for multiple comparisons. In regression analyses, manual dexterity remained a significant predictor of nonword repetition after controlling for nonverbal abilities and age. In contrast, manual dexterity was no longer significant in predicting receptive vocabulary or grammar when nonverbal intelligence was included as a factor in the model.

Conclusions These findings build on prior work implicating poor fine motor control in child language disorders by identifying a robust relationship between manual dexterity and nonword repetition. Relationships between manual dexterity and receptive language abilities appear to be indirect and mediated by nonword repetition. For clinicians, the results underscore the importance of screening children with poor fine motor control for concomitant language impairments.

Acknowledgments
The work was conducted with support from a dissertation grant from Language Learning: A Journal in Language Sciences (awarded to R. Obeid). Preliminary analyses were presented at the 2017 Biennial Conference of the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX. We thank the families for their participation and Danielle DeNigris, Alexandria Garzone, Fabienne Geara, and Jocelyn Philip for their assistance. We thank Anna Stetsenko, David Rindskopf, Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, Lana Karasik, and Jarrad Lum for their advice and support during the development of this project as a dissertation. We also thank Benjamin Munson for sharing recordings of nonwords for our adapted nonword repetition task.
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