Speech Therapy For Learning Disabilities & Reading Impairments
When you think of the services a speech therapist can provide, reading and writing might not be the first thing to come to mind.
However, issues with reading and writing can have an impact on one’s speech, and naturally it impacts language. This is true in the other direction as well – speech difficulties can lead to literacy difficulties.
Here at District Speech, we work with children with learning disorders, helping them address their issues with both literacy and speech.
To find out more about how this works, keep reading.
What Causes Learning Disabilities Like A Reading Impairment?
Learning disabilities are caused by an issue with the brain’s development. This might happen while you’re pregnant with your baby, during birth, or at some point during childhood.
There’s a long list of factors which may contribute to a learning disability. These may include:
- A chromosomal abnormality (like Down syndrome or Turner syndrome)
- An inherited condition (like Fragile X)
- Premature birth
- Severe injury or illness during early childhood
- Severe illness during pregnancy
- Radiation poisoning
- Lead poisoning
- Early childhood neglect
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Complications during birth
In some cases, the cause of a learning disability is unknown.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has A Learning Disability Or Reading Impairment?
One way to find out that a child has a learning disability is to wait for feedback from their teacher once they reach primary school age. However, watching for the following signs can help you detect a learning disability far sooner. If your child has a learning disability, they may have difficulty with:
- Thinking of specific words
- Learning new words
- Learning the lyrics to a song
- Learning the alphabet
- Matching written letters to the sounds they make
- Learning to count
- Remembering phone numbers or other sequences of numbers
- Learning basic math (addition, times tables, etc)
- Remembering directions (left vs right)
- Reading comprehension
- Following directions
- Using an analog clock
What Different Types Of Learning Disabilities Are There?
There are a number of different learning disabilities – read on below to see some of the more common ones.
Word Recognition Disorder/Dyslexia
Word recognition disorder, or dyslexia as it’s more commonly known, is a disorder characterized by inaccurate language. In particular, those with dyslexia may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and writing, but also with speaking.
In general, kids with dyslexia have normal vision. They don’t have any other intellectual or neurological difficulties, and are just as intelligent as children without dyslexia. They can comprehend spoken language as well as anyone else, as well.
With dyslexia, the part of the brain that processes language isn’t working properly. As a result, they have difficulty connecting letters to the sounds they make. That makes the next step – turning those sounds into comprehensible words – even more difficult.
Specific Comprehension Deficit/Hyperlexia
Whereas dyslexia is linked most closely with word recognition, hyperlexia is related to reading comprehension.
Children with hyperlexia are able to read at a very young age – sometimes as young as two years old. This may sound like a good thing, but the problem with hyperlexia is that these children have no comprehension of the ideas expressed in what they just read. A child with hyperlexia may be able to read individual words, or even full sentences, but they’re unable to comprehend what the words mean.
Children with hyperlexia may sometimes also have an autism spectrum disorder , but not necessarily. As well, not all children who learn to read at a young age are hyperlexic.
If your child has dysgraphia, they have difficulty writing words and sentences in a comprehensible manner.
The other issues mentioned above are more closely related to an intellectual issue. This is true of dysgraphia as well, but it’s also an issue related to fine motor skills.
A child with dysgraphia may hold their pencil in a cramped manner. They generally have difficulty spacing words and letters properly, leading to difficulty differentiating between one word and another. They’ll likely have poor spelling as well.
In particular, children with dysgraphia may have difficulty with creative writing. They have trouble organizing their thoughts in writing, creating grammatically correct sentences, and have a limited lexicon to draw on.
This can develop in adults later in life as well, as a result of an injury or illness.
Other Learning Disabilities
The above listed learning disabilities are the most common. However, there are others as well, including:
- Oral & written language learning disability
How Do You Test For A Learning Disability Or Reading Impairment?
A speech therapist can help you find out whether your child has a learning disability.
Depending on your child’s unique needs, we may test them using the following criteria:
Reading & Writing At Home
What sort of activities are you doing with them related to reading and writing?
Some examples include reading to your children, letting them watch you write, or allowing them to explore written materials on their own.
How well can your child understand written directions? Do they perform better with spoken directions?
Do they hold a book the right way? Are they able to recall the details of a story?
Do they recognize their own name?
Are they able to repeat a string of letters, numbers, or words back to you?
If you say a letter, can they point to it on a chart?
These and other factors can help us understand your child’s level of reading comprehension.
Observing Your Child In School
If your child is in school or preschool, we may observe their behaviour to see what types of activities they’re attracted to, as well as how they react to new situations and follow directions.
Can your child understand how to recognize words that rhyme?
Do they recognize what a syllable is? And can they clap along to the syllables in a word?
Can they understand the difference between syllables and sounds?
Can they mix and match different syllables to make words?
Other factors we may consider include:
- Planning skills
- Organizing skills
- Attention to detail
- Vision issues
- Hearing issues
What Does Speech Therapy Treatment For Learning Disabilities Look Like?
If we determine that your child has a learning disability, treatment we recommend will be based on their individual needs.
Depending on what your child’s issues are, we may recommend the following:
- Exercises to match sounds with letters
- Retelling a story, and then writing a summary
- Matching sounds from other words to build their lexicon
- Exercises to follow the flow of words on a page
- Phonological Awareness Activities (sounds manipulation)
- Visual imagery
- Multi-sensory approach to learning reading/spelling patterns
Learning Disabilities In Adults
If you’ve always had difficulty with writing, reading, or understanding math, you may have been living with an undiagnosed learning disability.
This can cause difficulties in your career and personal life. You may have trouble understanding a memo from your boss, jokes or sayings among your colleagues, or innuendos or subtext in conversation. As a result, you may have low self-esteem, which can impact every area of your life.
If you’re an adult with a learning disability, you’re likely to display some of the following:
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty planning
- Being more susceptible to stress or anxiety
- A visual or kinesthetic learning style
- Being highly self-critical
While you may have lived with your learning disability for your entire life, it’s never too late to change. Here at District Speech, we can help.
Book An Appointment With District Speech
If you suspect your child has a learning disability, contact District Speech as soon as possible.
As with many other childhood speech issues, early intervention is key.
In many cases, treatment can help your child manage their learning disability. They can still succeed in their career and even in school. We can help.
Book your appointment with District Speech today.
Contact us today to find out how.