University of Oulu

Laasonen, M., Smolander, S., Lahti-Nuuttila, P., Leminen, M., Lajunen, H., Heinonen, K., Pesonen, A., Bailey, T., Pothos, E., Kujala, T., Leppänen, P., Bartlett, C., Geneid, A., Lauronen, L., Service, E., Kunnari, S., Arkkila, E. (2018) Understanding developmental language disorder - the Helsinki longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI): a study protocol. BMC Psychology, 6:24. doi:10.1186/s40359-018-0222-7

Understanding developmental language disorder - the Helsinki longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI) : a study protocol

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Author: Laasonen, Marja1,2,3; Smolander, Sini1,4; Lahti-Nuuttila, Pekka1,2;
Organizations: 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Phoniatrics, Head and Neck Surgery, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Haartmaninkatu 4 E, 00029 HUS, POB 220 Helsinki, Finland
2Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Psychology and Speech-Language Pathology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
4Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
6HUS Medical Imaging Center, Clinical Neurophysiology, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
7School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
8Department of Psychology, City University of London, London, UK
9Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
10Battelle Center for Mathematical Medicine, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital & The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
11Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Hospital for Children and Adolescents, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
12Centre for Advanced Research in Experimental and Applied Linguistics, Department of Linguistics and Languages, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-10-25


Background: Developmental language disorder (DLD, also called specific language impairment, SLI) is a common developmental disorder comprising the largest disability group in pre-school-aged children. Approximately 7% of the population is expected to have developmental language difficulties. However, the specific etiological factors leading to DLD are not yet known and even the typical linguistic features appear to vary by language. We present here a project that investigates DLD at multiple levels of analysis and aims to make the reliable prediction and early identification of the difficulties possible. Following the multiple deficit model of developmental disorders, we investigate the DLD phenomenon at the etiological, neural, cognitive, behavioral, and psychosocial levels, in a longitudinal study of preschool children.

Methods: In January 2013, we launched the Helsinki Longitudinal SLI study (HelSLI) at the Helsinki University Hospital ( We will study 227 children aged 3–6 years with suspected DLD and their 160 typically developing peers. Five subprojects will determine how the child’s psychological characteristics and environment correlate with DLD and how the child’s well-being relates to DLD, the characteristics of DLD in monolingual versus bilingual children, nonlinguistic cognitive correlates of DLD, electrophysiological underpinnings of DLD, and the role of genetic risk factors. Methods include saliva samples, EEG, computerized cognitive tasks, neuropsychological and speech and language assessments, video-observations, and questionnaires.

Discussion: The project aims to increase our understanding of the multiple interactive risk and protective factors that affect the developing heterogeneous cognitive and behavioral profile of DLD, including factors affecting literacy development. This accumulated knowledge will form a heuristic basis for the development of new interventions targeting linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of DLD.

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Series: BMC psychology
ISSN: 2050-7283
ISSN-E: 2050-7283
ISSN-L: 2050-7283
Volume: 6
Issue: 24
DOI: 10.1186/s40359-018-0222-7
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
6121 Languages
Funding: Helsinki Uusimaa Hospital District funding covers the clinical part of the project and additional research funding. Also, the Academy of Finland funds the project. These two sources of funding cover the additional costs of data gathering for the DLD children as well as salaries of the research group, that is, design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and writing the manuscripts. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) funds the project with two grants, which cover the assessments of the TD children.
Dataset Reference: The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Copyright information: © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.