Cognitive risk factors for specific learning disorder: processing speed, temporal processing, and working memory

Kristina Moll*, Silke M. Göbel, Debbie Gooch, Karin Landerl, Margaret J. Snowling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


High comorbidity rates between reading disorder (RD) and mathematics disorder (MD) indicate that, although the cognitive core deficits underlying these disorders are distinct, additional domain-general risk factors might be shared between the disorders. Three domain-general cognitive abilities were investigated in children with RD and MD: processing speed, temporal processing, and working memory. Since attention problems frequently co-occur with learning disorders, the study examined whether these three factors, which are known to be associated with attention problems, account for the comorbidity between these disorders. The sample comprised 99 primary school children in four groups: children with RD, children with MD, children with both disorders (RD+MD), and typically developing children (TD controls). Measures of processing speed, temporal processing, and memory were analyzed in a series of ANCOVAs including attention ratings as covariate. All three risk factors were associated with poor attention. After controlling for attention, associations with RD and MD differed: Although deficits in verbal memory were associated with both RD and MD, reduced processing speed was related to RD, but not MD; and the association with RD was restricted to processing speed for familiar nameable symbols. In contrast, impairments in temporal processing and visuospatial memory were associated with MD, but not RD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • comorbidity
  • learning disorders
  • dyslexia
  • dyscalculia
  • risk factors
  • attention


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