What is a Language-Based Learning Disability?

Instructor: Allison Camps

Allison has taught in elementary school inclusion classrooms and has her master's degree in Special Education.

This lesson will define a language-based learning disability and provide you with warning signs. It will also help you support students with a language-based learning disability by providing you strategies and interventions.

What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability?

What do Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Jay Leno and Magic Johnson all have in common? They all have a language-based learning disability.

When people hear 'language-based learning disability,' they often think of dyslexia. Dyslexia, a disability characterized by trouble understanding and formulating written language, is the most recognizable form of language-based learning disabilities. But LBLDs cover more than just the written language.

A language-based learning disability (LBLD), as the name suggests, is a disability that involves difficulty with age-appropriate reading, writing and/or speaking. For example, you would expect a preschooler to have trouble spelling his or her full name. You would not expect a third grader to have the same problem. This third grader is having trouble with age-appropriate spelling and may have a LBLD.

Signs of a Language-Based Learning Disability

Signs of a LBLD often start when young children have trouble with the spoken language. As children get older, they begin to also develop difficulties with written language. The list below provides you with some common warning signs of a LBLD.

Children with LBLD often have difficulty with:

  • Phonemic (sound) production
  • Mixing up the letters when reading and writing words (dyslexia)
  • Expressing and organizing ideas clearly (details are out of order and often vague)
  • Recalling words/names (they know what they want to say, but the word is 'on the tip of their tongue')
  • Learning new vocabulary they hear or see (students might stick to basic vocabulary when speaking and writing)
  • Following oral and written directions
  • Creating sentences or expanding on sentences
  • Number sequences (such as phone numbers or math equations)
  • Telling time
  • Differentiating left to right (making it difficult to read and write)
  • Learning words to songs
  • Eye contact
  • Holding a conversation

Diagnosing a Language-Based Learning Disability

A teacher recognizes quite a few warning signs of a LBLD in her student, Allison. She contacts Allison's parents and they, too, have some concerns. What does the parent or teacher do now?

Contacting a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is the first step. The SLP will evaluate the child's receptive (hearing) and expressive (speaking and writing) language skills. In addition, the SLP will gather information from the both the parents and the child's teachers.

The SLP will ask parents to describe the child's literacy experiences at home. Does the student have access to a variety of age-appropriate books? How frequently does he or she read or get read to? Does the child enjoy reading?

The SLP will observe the child in the classroom, looking for how the student responds to both written and verbal directions, decodes age-appropriate reading, recognizes and identifies familiar objects and so forth.

Once all the data is gathered, the SLP will recommend intervention strategies to assist the student in meeting his/her potential.

Strategies to Support a Student with a LBLD

When planning intervention strategies for the student, the goal is to look at the gaps in reading, speech and/or writing and then target those specific areas. For example, a student may be a strong reader but has trouble expressing his/her ideas both verbally and on paper. For this student, intervention strategies that support comprehension would be implemented.

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