Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The empathic mind in children and adolescents with Specific Language Impairments (SLI)

The ‘empathic mind’ in children with Specific Language Impairments (SLI); what can children with SLI understand of other people’s minds and emotions?

NutsOhra NutsOhra


This project is part of the ‘Emotion Focus Group’, which is focused on social and emotional competence in children and adolescents who have communicative impairments, such as children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH), children with Specific Language Impairments (SLI), and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

see www.focusonemotions.nl


Dutch Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Child (NSDSK), Amsterdam

Royal Kentalis, Sint-Michielsgestel

University of London, Institute of Education

University of Evora, Portugal


For children with SLI it is more difficult to access the social world around them, but this is frequently unnoticed by their social partners. Their peers, teachers, or parents often assume that they picked up the information as well as the children without a SLI. This overestimation of their understanding of the social world does not only further hamper children with SLI to fully participate, but it also enhances a developmental delay in ‘emotion socialization’, the process by which children learn to understand and appreciate their own and others’ emotions. These impairments, in turn, will have a negative effect on children’s social development, their position in the peer group, their friendships, which is the focus of this longitudinal project. In this project, it is examined to what extent an impaired understanding of the empathic mind affects the social development in children with SLI, and contributes to the development of psychopathology.


To answer these questions, various studies are run simultaneously, involving different methods (observation, experimental, parent reports, self-reports),and different informants (child, parent, teacher).

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