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Purpose: Children with specific language impairment (SLI) demonstrate difficulty on many performance-based measures of executive function, although their executive performance on ratings of behavior is not well understood. The current investigation used the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Preschool (BRIEF-P; Gioia, Espy, & Isquith, 2003), a rating scale designed to investigate executive behaviors in everyday activities, to examine the executive skills of preschool children with SLI relative to their typically developing (TD) peers.

Method: Seventeen preschool children with SLI were age- and gender- matched to 17 typically developing peers. Both parents and teachers of participants completed the BRIEF-P to assess the perceptions of executive behaviors in the home and school environments.

Results: Parents and teachers were consistent in their ratings of preschool children’s overall executive skills. As predicted, the executive skills of children with SLI were rated significantly worse than controls on the BRIEF-P. Children with SLI were 6 times more likely than controls to be rated in the clinically impaired range. Both parent and teacher ratings on the BRIEF-P were significantly correlated with language abilities, although the relationship was stronger for the teacher ratings.

Conclusion: The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that both parents and teachers perceive that the executive skills of preschool children with SLI are poorer than their typical peers as evidenced in the children’s everyday activities. While most children in both groups were not identified with clinical levels of executive dysfunction, children with SLI were 6 times more likely than their TD peers to be identified in the clinical range. The observed relationship between executive skills and language functioning provides further support for the interactive role of executive skills and language during early development, although the direction of this relationship is unclear. The results suggest that the BRIEF-P may be a useful component in a multi-method approach for examining the executive skills of preschool children with SLI. From a clinical perspective, speech-language pathologists should pay careful attention to the interaction between executive function and language development when evaluating the linguistic abilities and providing intervention services to children with SLI.