Understanding Language-Based Learning Disabilities

The following can be found at http://www.piedmontparent.com/PP/Understanding-Language-Based-Learning-Disabilities/ and came from a live facebook chat facilitated by Piedmont Parent.

What is a language-based learning disability?

Aimee Picon: A language-based learning disability affects a child’s ability to use language and can impact reading, writing and/or spelling. In short terms, a language-based learning disability is trouble with listening, reading, speaking, writing, etc.

How do I know if my child's learning disability is language-based?

Aimee Picon: The only true way to tell if a learning disability is language-based is with assessment through a qualified professional. However, warning signs include general difficulty with language-based tasks. Speaking, listening, retrieving words, difficulty with reading and spelling. It can present differently depending on the age of the child and the specific area of deficit.

What’s the difference between a speech disorder or impairment and a language-based learning disability?

Aimee Picon: The easiest way to answer this question is to refer you to an article posted on Understood.org by Ellen Koslo. The Q and A article, “What’s the Difference Between Speech Disorders and Language-Based Learning Disabilities” clearly defines the differences between the types of speech impairments and then the difference between a speech impairment and a language-based learning disability. Understood.org is an excellent resource for parents of children will all different types of learning challenges.

What are some signs or symptoms of a language-based learning disability? And, at what age are these disabilities typically diagnosed?

Aimee Picon: Children who experience speech delays are at risk for developing language-based learning disabilities, however these types of disabilities are generally diagnosed in school aged children who are showing a deficit in reading, spelling or understanding academic material in school. These are students who don’t understand how to attack new words based on previously learned words by applying familiar sound patterns to new words. They tend to be slow and labored readers. In milder cases, they are sometimes not identified until students prove unsuccessful on end of grade assessments beginning in third grade.

Aimee Picon: For others, this disability may not be addressed at all if the student independently develops coping mechanisms for the deficit. Language-based learning disabilities can sometimes be difficult to diagnose in very young children and are generally noted once they start school.

Do language-based learning disabilities also affect a child's ability to learn other subjects beyond reading/writing/spelling, like math and science, for example?

Aimee Picon: Yes, unfortunately, difficulty with reading, comprehension, vocabulary or a combination of those things seeps into other academic areas. For example, improper decoding of math word problems, or difficulty with understanding a science text, can impact a student’s overall academic performance. Intervention in reading can help support the student in other academic areas.

Do you have any tips on how parents can boost their child’s oral language skills at home?

Aimee Picon: Read, read, read to your child. No matter the age of the child, reading at a higher level will boost his/her vocabulary and oral language skills. It will allow your child to hear your reading prosody, and inflection. These are oral skills that can be generalized to communication.

What causes language-based learning disabilities?

Aimee Picon: There is much research that has been done on the brain and how brain functions differ in people with learning disabilities. The research of Sally Shaywitz et al. (2002) shows us that those who struggle with language lack a phonological coding system in the left hemisphere of the brain. People who show this deficit try to access frontal lobe processes to compensate by memorizing whole words which is a much less efficient way to process language as it is impossible to memorize all words. A genetic component has been proven, and language-based learning disabilities occur in all cultures throughout the world.

I am assuming there are different levels for different children, but can they be overcome or will they always be challenged?

Aimee Picon: Yes, appropriate intervention to address the specific needs of the child can help a person overcome a language-based learning disability. Some of the research on the brain done by Sally Shaywitz shows that with intervention there are actually changes in brain processes and a person who receives appropriate intervention will begin to access the parts of the brain that allow them to decode more efficiently.

How is a language-based learning disability diagnosed?

Aimee Picon: The diagnosis is based on standardized assessments that measure the child’s ability to decode, encode, use and interpret language. However, it is typically a parent or teacher who has noticed the child’s difficulty and attempted to intervene with limited positive results that sparks the family to seek out a professional who could provide a diagnosis.

What type of professional is qualified to identify a language-based learning disability, and what type of testing is used?

Aimee Picon: A language-based learning disability can be diagnosed by a psychologist or a team of professionals. To obtain an official diagnosis, a full battery of tests including IQ and academic achievement tests are usually done. The IQ test helps professionals determine how the child’s verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed may impact their academic achievement.

How might having a language-based learning disability affect a child’s academic perfor