[Overton]Identifying Language-Learning Disorders

What is a language-learning disorder (LLD)? "LLD" is a generic term that refers to a disorder which manifests itself by significant impairment in language (listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities). The term was first coined in the early 1960's by educator Samuel Kirk. Various other terms, including perceptual handicaps, developmental aphasia, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia and hyperkinetic syndrome, have also used been used to describe the impairment. It is important to understand that all of these labels refer to the same child, the language-learning disabled child.

What are the characteristics of a language- learning disabled child? Because each child is unique, the characteristics vary from one child to another. However, some general traits which many LLD children share are as follow:

Behavioral Characteristics

Academic- Language Characteristics

Of course all children demonstrate some of these traits at one time or another. It is the large number and sustained nature of these behaviors that is indicative of a possible language-learning disorder.

What causes language-learning disorders? Experts in speech-language pathology, psychology, education and medicine have proposed many theories regarding the cause of this broad-based disorder. However, no single cause has yet been identified. It has been documented that this disorder tends to run in families, although no genetic component has been discovered. It is also known that boys are more often affected than girls. Parents often ask whether the following factors could have caused their child's language- learning disabilities:

How could a language-learning disorder affect my child? LLD children often become frustrated due to repeated failure and feelings of inadequacy. In some instances, these feelings are externalized by aggressiveness. Others internalize their problems and become depressed. Remember, a language-learning disorder affects all aspects of a child's life, not just the academic areas (e.g., a child who has poor visual-motor skills, may be clumsy and do poorly in sports). Therefore, he may not get along well with his peers and may choose to play with children younger than himself.

What should I do if I suspect that my child is language-learning disabled? If you suspect that your child has a language-learning disorder, you should have him evaluated by a team of professionals. Speech and language testing may be done by a speech-language pathologist. Academic testing may be performed by a speech-language pathologist, a person certified in language-learning disabilities or a diagnostician. To determine his level of intellectual functioning, psychological testing can be done by a psychologist or a diagnostician. Your child may also be evaluated by a physician to determine if any physiological abnormalities are involved in the learning disability.

If my child is language-learning disabled, what can be done to help him? LLD children have the potential to learn; however, they may need to learn in different ways. For example, a child may need to read aloud instead of silently because this provides him with multiple sources of input, which enable him to understand what he has read.

To re-emphasize, LLD children can and do learn. Early identification by a team of qualified professionals is the first step in determining which of a wide variety of teaching methods and techniques will best help the language-learning disabled child achieve his maximum academic potential.

If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408


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Copyright 1985, 2001 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Last revised: February 03, 2001