Children with learning problems often cannot discriminate rapid acoustic changes that occur in speech. In this study of normal children and children with learning problems, impaired behavioral discrimination of a rapid speech change (/da/versus/ga/) was correlated with diminished magnitude of an electrophysiologic measure that is not dependent on attention or a voluntary response. The ability of children with learning problems to discriminate another rapid speech change (/ba/versus/wa/) also was reflected in the neurophysiology. These results indicate that some children's discrimination deficits originate in the auditory pathway before conscious perception and have implications for differential diagnosis and targeted therapeutic strategies for children with learning disabilities and attention disorders.
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