Learners with an oral/written language disorder struggle with expressing themselves verbally and/or in writing. As this disorder is similar to a speech impairment, it is often accompanied by speech problems. Students with an oral/written language disorder often have difficulty making sense of standard syntax and sentence semantics. Because of this, it can be difficult for them to express themselves effectively. These students also often struggle to pronounce complex words and have trouble with other components of reading like decoding, spelling, and comprehension.
What causes an oral/written language disorder?
While the exact causes of an oral/written language disorder are presently unknown, the most common factor that is assumed to contribute to most cases is limited exposure to language in oral and/or written form in the early years (before school age). Genetics can also play a role, as children of parents who struggled in reading, writing, or language are more likely to have similar challenges.
Might my child have oral/written language disorder?
Signs that a student might have a language disorder are quite similar to those of both dyslexia and dysgraphia. In fact, both often accompany oral/written language disorder. Here are some signs to look for:
Difficulty with early phonics skills
Limited comprehension, especially as texts become more difficult as the child progresses through the grades
Inability to apply learned comprehension strategies to reading
Difficulty with tasks like summarizing an event or making a prediction
What supports should my child receive?
The specific services and supports a student receives will depend on the specific skills that require intervention. Some students will benefit from extra phonics instruction. Many will benefit from speech services. In general, the best type of intervention for students with a language disorder is a multi-faceted approach to explicit instruction in all areas of reading, writing, spelling, and oral language. While certain skills should be re-taught in isolation as needed, students benefit most from learning these skills in the context of larger processes, such as collaborative story writing (which requires writing, spelling, reading to revise, and verbal communication with others). Within these contexts, focus should be placed on:
Developing skills related to decoding and encoding through multi-sensory approaches
Explicit instruction in each step of the writing process (brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising)
Modeling of clear and effective communication strategies
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