Literacy Disorders/Language-based learning difficulties in children
Reading, writing, and speaking in English are collectively termed as literacy.
Development of language is thought to be crucial to the development of literacy skills. Phonological awareness (i.e. knowledge of sounds) vocabulary, ability to combine words to make sentences and oral skills are linked to successful literacy skills. Children exhibiting difficulties with speech and language are often found to be struggling with reading and writing that can affect their ability to realise their full potential.
It is thus important to emphasize early identification and intervention of reading and writing problems, as these can hinder a child’s progress in academics and their ability to participate fully in the community.
Due to the inherent relationship between language and literacy, Speech-language pathologists play a major role in identification and intervention of language-based learning disabilities.
Symptoms of literacy difficulties:
Literacy difficulties may manifest themselves in reading, spellings, writing, and mathematics. The children may have had a delay in speech and may seem to have issues with memory and organisation, in spite of average to superior intelligence.
Errors in spellings:
- May get confused with letters that look alike e.g. b/d, p/q which are mirror images of each other
- May do letter reversals e.g. net for ten
- May mix up words starting with same letters e.g. who, whom
- May omit or add letters in words
- May have difficulties with writing alphabets when sounded out
Reading could be effortful or may struggle with reading and may read below grade levels
- may exhibit difficulties in remembering and/or understanding of text passages
- May have difficulty to comprehend and extract important points from a passage
- may leave out words or add extra words
- Children may often complain of the words swimming or moving around but routine eye examinations may show no defects
Difficulties associated with writing
- May have poor handwriting, difficulties in writing in straight line and written work may look messy and disorganised
- May have numerous spelling errors, often spelling the same word in different ways.
- Confuses similar sounding words when spelling, e.g. “one” and “won”
- Compared to oral ability, may exhibit poorer writing skills
- May have trouble copying from the board in class
- May mix upper case and lower case letters within words
- May have problems with punctuations
Difficulties with short term memory
- May require frequent reminders before remembering how to do a particular task
- May have difficulty in remembering multiple-step instructions
- May have a good long-term memory for experiences and faces, but poor memory for sequences as well as unfamiliar facts
Difficulties in Mathematics
- May have difficulties in telling time as well as managing time
- May have difficulties in dealing with money
- May have a problem with numbers and calculations involving adding, subtracting and time tables
- May be confused by similar-looking mathematical signs; e.g., + and – ; (greater than)
Speech-language pathologists are a part of a multidisciplinary (teacher, special educator, psychologist, and parents) team in the diagnosis of learning difficulties. A SLP will undertake an assessment of reading, writing, and oral skills.
A speech-language pathologist will undertake speech-language assessments, will assess for phonological and phonemic awareness, writing skills, assess literacy skills and gather information from the parents and teachers and observe the child’s recognition of letters, printed material.
Individualised approaches are undertaken to work on the reading, writing skills that a child has issues with. Material related to curriculum and school work may be used. Language based strategies may be applied to work on reading, writing and classroom assignments. Work on spoken language may be designed to support the development of writing skills.
The SLP consults and collaborates with the teacher to modify and develop strategies that may facilitate learning.