Nonlinguistic cognitive treatment for bilingual children with primary language impairment

Kerry Danahy Ebert, Jill Rentmeester-Disher, Kathryn Kohnert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Substantial evidence points to the presence of subtle weaknesses in the nonlinguistic cognitive processing skills of children with primary (or specific) language impairment (PLI). It is possible that these weaknesses contribute to the language learning difficulties that characterize PLI, and that treating them can improve language skills. To test this premise, we treated two nonlinguistic cognitive processing skills, processing speed and sustained selective attention, in two SpanishEnglish bilingual children with PLI. The study followed a single-subject multiple baseline design, with both repeated measures and standardized pre-and post-testing as outcome measures. Results from the repeated measures tasks showed that both participants made gains in nonlinguistic cognitive processing skills as well as in Spanish and English. These results both replicate and extend prior work showing that nonlinguistic cognitive processing treatment can positively affect language skills in children with PLI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-501
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by NIH NIDCD 1R21DC010868, awarded to Kathryn Kohnert, and by a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota Graduate School, awarded to Kerry Danahy Ebert. We thank Maura Arnoldy, Mary DesChamps and Amelia Medina for their assistance with Spanish language testing. We are also grateful to Dr Frank Cirrin and the faculty and staff of participating Minneapolis Public Schools.


  • Bilingualism
  • Children
  • Nonlinguistic cognitive treatment
  • Specific language impairment


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