Language-Based Learning Disabilities

A child with a language-based learning disability usually has trouble with both the spoken and the written word. Most children who have this type of disability have average to above average intelligence. So the problems they have in school are often unexpected.  

Dyslexia is often used to refer to a specific learning problem that primarily affects reading and spelling. Children with dyslexia may have other language learning problems, however. 

A speech-language pathologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in treating these conditions. With the right professional help, children can learn strategies that offset these challenges. They can also benefit from accommodations to help them succeed in the classroom.

Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Ear Nose and Throat (Otolaryngology) and Speech, Language and Learning.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes include:

  • A difference in brain structure that is present at birth

Risk factors:

  • Heredity
  • Having language problems

Preschool children who have problems talking are at risk for language-based learning problems when they enter school.

Symptoms & Types

Symptoms include difficulty: 

  • Expressing ideas clearly
  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Understanding questions
  • Following directions that are heard or read
  • Understanding and retaining the details of a story or lecture
  • Telling left from right
  • Learning letters and numbers
  • Mixing up the order of letters in words
  • Identifying the sounds that correspond to letters
  • Rhyming
  • Telling time
  • Memorizing times tables
  • Spelling

Diagnosis & Tests

Your child may have tests to measure abilities in:

  • Spoken language
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Reasoning
  • Reading accuracy
  • Reading rate
  • Reading comprehension
  • Written expression
  • Spelling
  • Math 

Your child will receive treatment based on strengths and weaknesses shown on these test.

Treatment & Care

Treatment goals target reading and writing abilities that your child needs to improve.

Management includes:

  • Language therapy to train in new skills
  • Academic tutoring
  • Strategies to make up for weaknesses that are not likely to improve
  • Accommodations in the classroom

Living & Managing

Trouble with reading and writing may continue for life. But children can learn how to improve their abilities.

Children can be helped by:

  • Accommodations in the classroom
  • Reminders that having a language-based disability is nothing to be ashamed of. With intervention and hard work, children with language-based disabilities can learn and succeed
  • Reminders that this disability is caused by a difference in the way the brain is structured at birth and is not because of character flaws