Purpose: Immature auditory processing has been proposed to underlie language impairments in children with developmental language disorder (DLD; also known as specific language impairment). Using newly available normative auditory evoked potential (AEP) waveforms, we estimated AEP maturity in individual children with DLD and explored whether this maturational index was related to their language abilities.
Method: AEPs were elicited by 225 trials of a 490-Hz pure tone. Using intraclass correlation and our previously established normative AEP waveforms of 7- to 10-year-old children with typical development, we estimated the age equivalent of the AEPs (AEP-age) from 21 children with DLD. The relation between AEP maturity and language was explored through regression analysis.
Results: AEP-age predicted 31% of the variance in the language abilities of children with DLD. The AEP-age of children with mild DLD was similar to their chronological age, whereas children with moderate-severe DLD showed, on average, a 1.3-year delay in their neural responses. AEP-age predicted receptive, but not expressive, language performance.
Conclusion: Maturation in auditory neural responses is a significant predictor of language ability, particularly in children with moderate-severe DLD.