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This study evaluated the claim that auditory processing deficits are a cause of reading and language difficulties. We report a longitudinal study of 245 children at family risk of dyslexia, children with preschool language impairments, and control children. Children with language impairments had poorer frequency-discrimination thresholds than controls at 5.5 years, but children at family risk of dyslexia did not. A model assessing longitudinal relationships among frequency discrimination, reading, language, and executive function skills showed that frequency discrimination was predicted by executive skills but was not a longitudinal predictor of reading or language skills. Our findings contradict the hypothesis that frequency discrimination is causally related to dyslexia or language impairment and suggest that individuals at risk for dyslexia or who have language impairments may perform poorly on auditory processing tasks because of comorbid attentional difficulties.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Sci

Publication Date





1270 - 1282


auditory deficits, executive skills, frequency discrimination, language disorder, risk of dyslexia