Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) show relative weaknesses on rhythm tasks beyond their characteristic linguistic impairments. The current study compares preferred tempo and the width of an entrainment region for 5- to 7-year-old typically developing (TD) children and children with DLD and considers the associations with rhythm aptitude and expressive grammar skills in the two populations. Preferred tempo was measured with a spontaneous motor tempo task (tapping tempo at a comfortable speed), and the width (range) of an entrainment region was measured by the difference between the upper (slow) and lower (fast) limits of tapping a rhythm normalized by an individual’s spontaneous motor tempo. Data from N = 16 children with DLD and N = 114 TD children showed that whereas entrainment-region width did not differ across the two groups, slowest motor tempo, the determinant of the upper (slow) limit of the entrainment region, was at a faster tempo in children with DLD vs. TD. Entrainment-region width was positively associated with rhythm aptitude and receptive grammar even after taking into account potential confounding factors, whereas expressive grammar did not show an association with any of the tapping measures. Preferred tempo was not associated with any study variables after including covariates in the analyses. These results motivate future neuroscientific studies of low-frequency neural oscillatory mechanisms as the potential neural correlates of entrainment-region width and their associations with musical rhythm and spoken language processing in children with typical and atypical language development.

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Author notes

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

J. D. M. and R. L. G. have joint senior authorship.

Handling Editor: Kate Watkins

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