Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Carl A. Coelho; Bernard Grela

Field of Study

Communication Science


Master of Arts

Open Access

Campus Access



Purpose: This study used meta-analysis to investigate the difference in nonverbal cognitive performance of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and their typically developing (TD) peers. In addition, variability in effect sizes across studies and its relation to the nonverbal cognitive test used, the cut-off criterion employed, participants’ age, and their linguistic skills were investigated.

Method: We searched computerized databases and reference sections to find studies published between 2005-2011 of children with SLI who were age-matched (and not nonverbal cognitive matched) to TD peers, were given a norm-referenced nonverbal cognitive test, and reported sufficient data for an effect size analysis.

Results: Across 80 studies, on average children with SLI relative to their TD peers exhibited lower nonverbal cognitive performance consistent with a medium effect size. Results of moderator analyses investigating the nonverbal cognitive test, the cut-off criterion, the children’s age and language skills will be discussed.

Discussion: The findings of this investigation have theoretical implications regarding the characterization of SLI and have clinical implications for how nonverbal cognitive tests are used and interpreted for children with this disorder.

Major Advisor

Tammie J. Spaulding