Dr. Suzanne Adlof, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders and director of the South Carolina Research on Language and Literacy (SCROLL) Lab in the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, recently won two R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, along with colleagues from the MGH Institute for Health Professions, University of Montana, Royal Holloway University of London, and Florida State University. The grants will support longitudinal projects (one focusing on children in grades K-2 and the other focusing on children in grades 2-4) examining how children with developmental language disorder, also known as specific language impairment, learn new words and how that relates to their reading abilities.
[Photo: Dr. Suzanne Adlof]
“The COMD [Communication Sciences and Disorders] department is known both nationally and internationally for its research in the area of literacy,” says COMD chair Dr. Kenn Apel. “Dr. Adlof‘s research is a foundational and essential component of that recognition.”
Dr. Adlof will lead the grades 2-4 project as principal investigator, and she will serve as co-investigator for the grades K-2 project (learn more about the grades K-2 project and collaborators). In addition to studying developmental language disorder, Dr. Adlof’s grades 2-4 project will also follow children who have dyslexia, both conditions, or typical development. At the end of the project, Dr. Adlof and her team will measure reading comprehension and other academic outcomes among the participants.
“Children with language-based learning disabilities, including developmental language disorder and dyslexia, comprise over 57 percent of children receiving special education services in public schools — a total of more than three million children in the United States,” says Dr. Adlof, who notes that although developmental language disorder and dyslexia frequently co-occur in the same individuals, they are separate disorders that require different types of instruction. “These children are often difficult to identify, and therefore, many of them do not receive interventions that target their specific needs.”
While previous research has largely focused on groups of children who have developmental language disorder and dyslexia — many of whom likely have both disorders — Dr. Adlof’s team is the first to study these disorders as they often occur: children with developmental language disorder who have good word reading skills, children with dyslexia who have good oral language skills, children who have both development language disorder and dyslexia, and children with typical development.