Speech and Language Disorder and Dyslexia: Two sides of the same coin

How are they linked?

Children who experience difficulties developing spoken language are very likely to go on to have some difficulties with reading and writing. This is no coincidence. Being able to successfully process phonological (sound) information is at the core of these skills. Making sense of the sounds they hear helps infants to understand the meaning of words and develop language.  Discriminating subtle auditory differences between sounds in words (i.e. recognising that ‘cart’ and ‘card’ are similar-sounding but different words) and ultimately reproducing them accurately, paves the way for clear intelligible, speech.

It is these same phonological processing abilities which help children to crack the alphabetic code by making sound-to-letter correspondences, i.e. phonics. Deficits in phonological processing impact on learning to talk and learning to read. Children who experience the most significant difficulties often have the most severe underlying phonological impairments and usually have a range of additional factors impacting on their development, such as poor memory, attention or slow speed of processing. Speech, language and literacy difficulties tend to run in families due to genetics but other environmental factors also impact on progress with these skills.

Can difficulties resolve?

Research studies have found that children whose language difficulties improve and resolve by the time they are 5, are less likely to have longer-term literacy needs. Early identification and intervention is key in supporting children who experience speech, language and literacy difficulties. Speech and language therapy is beneficial ans some children require specialist support.

The importance of phonics

Phonics has been proven as a highly effective way to teach the first stages of reading. Children learn to match individual and groups of letters to the sounds they make, allowing them to ‘decode‘ words by sounding them out. Children with underlying phonological weaknesses will likely find this more challenging and need a modified approach involving a slower pace of teaching, more repetition and the use of multi-sensory materials (to feel and make letters and words rather than just see and say) in order to make progress.

Warning signs

Early signs that a child may have a deficit in phonological processing and therefore be at risk of long-term literacy difficulties and dyslexia include:

  • Delayed language development
  • Slower to develop intelligible speech
  • Persistent difficulties with certain speech sounds, saying two consonants together in words or words with multiple syllables
  • Difficulty retrieving known words from memory when talking.

Please get in touch if you would like your child’s phonological skills assessed or you would like to discuss their needs.   

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