Language-Based Learning Disability

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Language-Based Learning Disability

Does your child wrestle with both the spoken and the written word? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “The child with dyslexia has trouble almost exclusively with the written word. The child who has dyslexia as part of a larger language learning disability has trouble with both the spoken and the written word.”

The following chart provides an overview of the core language components an individual must use. Reading is the area directly impacted by dyslexia. Other challenges often related to dyslexia can impact any of the other core language areas and need to be addressed separately with the help of appropriate professionals.

Components of language-based learning disability

If affected by a language-based learning disability, your child may be affected by a wide spectrum of difficulties connected to understanding and using both spoken and written language. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that specifically presents phonological-processing challenges. Other language-based learning disabilities include challenges with:

  • Expressing ideas clearly
  • Learning new vocabulary words
  • Understanding questions
  • Following directions
  • Understanding and retaining details
  • Reading and comprehending material
  • Learning words to songs and rhymes

The effects of a language-based learning disability can be wide-ranging, and students with a language-based learning disability can have difficulties with any or all of these skills:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Math
  • Social skills

You may also find that many students with language-based learning disabilities have an additional weakness in one or more of the following executive functions:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Organization
  • Perseverance
  • Self-regulation

Most people consider articulation issues when they think of a speech-language pathologist (also known as a speech-language therapist). Any student experiencing the ongoing challenges of a language-based learning disability should be evaluated by and work with a trained speech-language pathologist to help with these underlying language weaknesses. If there are other language difficulties besides dyslexia, the student will struggle with reading and writing until they receive help with the underlying language challenges, even if they receive appropriate intervention for the dyslexia itself. You must address all aspects in order, starting with the internal, executive functions, then moving to the language areas in general, and finally to reading and writing.

Specific Language Impairment 

Do you know about specific language impairment? Like dyslexia, specific language impairment is another diagnosis that falls under the broad scope of language-based learning disabilities. Specific language impairment can affect both receptive and expressive language including:

  • Grammatical and syntactical development (such as correct verb tense, word order, and sentence structure)
  • Semantic development (such as vocabulary knowledge)
  • Phonological development (such as awareness of sounds in spoken language and the sound-symbol connection)


Dysgraphia means difficulty writing by hand. The International Dyslexia Association’s “Understanding Dysgraphia” fact sheet states that handwriting and spelling struggles are central to dysgraphia. The challenges of writing thoughts on the page may be part of a separate challenge. Terms such as specific language impairment and oral and written language disability are labels frequently used to describe oral and written communication issues.

Sounding Out Words

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