The ability to identify children early in development who are at substantial risk for language/literacy difficulties would have great benefit both for the children and for the educational and therapeutic institutions that serve them. Information that is relatively easily available prior to the age of 3 years, such as late talking, family history of language/literacy difficulties, and socioeconomic status, have some but very limited predictive power. Here, we examine whether the inclusion of a DNA-based genome-wide polygenic score that has been shown to capture children's genetic propensity for educational attainment (EA3) adds enough prediction to yield a clinically useful score.


Data are longitudinal scores of 1,420 children from the Twins Early Development Study, who were assessed at ages 2 and 3 years on language and nonverbal ability and at 12 years of age on oral language, word decoding, and reading comprehension. Five risk factors were examined: expressive vocabulary, nonverbal ability (these two from parent report), family history, mothers' education, and EA3. Analyses were conducted both for continuous and categorically defined measures of risk and outcome.


Language and literacy abilities at 12 years of age were significantly but modestly predicted by the risk factors, with a small but significant added prediction from EA3. Indices of diagnostic validity for poor outcomes, such as sensitivity and area under the curve statistics, were poor in all cases.


We conclude that, at present, clinically useful prediction from toddlerhood remains an unattained goal.

Supplemental Material



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