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Speech Therapy and Learning Disabilities

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Speech speech Difficulty speech

Individuals who suffer from learning disabilities may attend speech therapy as a method of treatment when the learning disabilities involve language. Speaking, reading, spelling and writing can all be affected due to a learning disability. When the ability to communicate clearly becomes impaired, whether verbally or otherwise, due to language difficulties, speech therapy may be helpful.

Unfortunately, there is sometimes a delay in recognising a language based learning disability, especially when it is confused with a lack of intelligence or being “slow”, and therefore recognising that speech therapy may be a viable treatment option.

Signs of Language Based Learning Disabilities

Individuals who have a language-based learning disability usually have trouble with all forms of language, including both written and spoken. These difficulties tend to come to light in childhood, when a child is unable to produce age-appropriate verbal and written abilities.

Some common signs of language based learning disabilities include:

  • An inability to learn the alphabet
  • Trouble matching a letter with its correct sound
  • Difficulties putting letters together to spell words and/or sound out words
  • Inabilities with memorising songs or nursery rhyme lyrics
  • Difficulties with comprehending what is read or remembering new vocabulary
  • General inefficiency in communication whether it be verbal or written.
There are sometimes associated signs of language based learning difficulties as well, including difficulties in telling the left from the right, trouble learning to tell time, and problems with learning numbers and math skills.

If a language-based learning disability is suspected, a speech pathologist, sometimes also called a speech language pathologist or even a speech therapist, will be able to do an evaluation. The method of evaluation will differ according to the age of the individual.

Language Based Learning Disabilities and Speech Therapy

How a language-based learning disability is treated will depend upon the type of disability diagnosed, the severity of the disability, the specific abilities and difficulties of the individual and the age of the individual. Speech therapy, sometimes also called speech and language therapy, may be recommended as part of a treatment plan.

What actually occurs at speech therapy sessions will again depend on a number of variables, including the length of time of the session (usually between 30 and 60 minutes), the location of the session, whether the session is private or involves a group and the age of the individual. What is most important in determining the content of a speech therapy session, however, is the difficulties faced by the individual. For example, individuals who have trouble sounding out words will likely engage in tapping, clapping or rhyming activities. Individuals who have difficulties with following a plot line or comprehending the meaning of a paragraph or story will work on this skill during therapy sessions.

The degree to which a language-based learning disability may be overcome will be specific to each individual. The speech therapist or pathologist involved in the therapy sessions will likely be able to give some indication of how much progress can be expected in each specific case.

Further Information

Medical professionals and experienced educators will be able to provide further information on language based learning disabilities and speech therapy. Speech pathologists can often be accessed privately or via a referral from a GP. A number of organisations also exist to support individuals with speech difficulties and disorders in the UK and may be able to provide further information on language based learning disabilities and speech therapy, which can be found on the Internet.

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