pediatric speech therapists in Estero

Think Your Child Has a Written Language Disorder? Pediatric Speech Therapists Spell Out The Top Signs

A written language disorder is a type of learning disability that impacts a child’s ability to read, write, and spell. As Estero pediatric speech therapists, we see it manifesting in a number of ways, including:

  • Difficulty spelling (dysorthographia)
  • Trouble writing legibly and coherently (dysgraphia)
  • Problems understanding and producing written text

Written language disorders tend to get less attention that speech-language disorders, but our Estero pediatric speech therapists know they can have a substantial impact on a child’s learning, academic success, and self-esteem. This is especially true when written language disorders are wrongly characterized as the child “just not trying hard enough” or being “sloppy” with their handwriting.

Signs of Written Language Disorder

We mostly tend to notice written language disorder with preschool-age children (ages 3 to 5). But clues are sometimes evident even younger than that.

Some red flags of written language disorder our pediatric speech therapists notice have to do with difficulty in the area of phonological awareness. For those unfamiliar, phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and make sounds in spoken words. The ability to understand and work with sounds in the spoken language is what allows us to start decoding the meaning of words, blend different sounds, and then ultimately learn to read.

Issues related to phonological awareness that are key indicators of a written language disorder include:

  • Trouble recognizing patterns in songs, nursery rhymes, and books — even after repeated exposure.
  • Inability to demonstrate awareness of syllables and rhymes during verbal play. For example, they have trouble clapping out syllables, generating nonsense rhymes, or just rhyming words in general.
  • Difficulty hearing, identifying, and making individual sounds in spoken words.

Then there are emergent reading deficits, which can also tip us off to a written language disorder. These can include:

  • Not knowing the names and sounds of letters of the alphabet, even when most of their peers do.
  • Not recognizing the letters of the alphabet.
  • Not turning the pages of a book when looking through one or having it read to them.
  • Limited or poor awareness of the printed word. They don’t seem to get that books have a front and back, they aren’t grasping the direction of words in a book, they aren’t picking up where words start and stop.
  • Minimal interest in print materials. They aren’t pointing to pictures in the book, they aren’t excited to listen to a favorite book over and over, they aren’t looking at books with others, etc.
  • Not fully getting that words represent ideas, actions, objects, etc.
  • Difficulty understanding that different words can be used for the same thing. Ex: “Chair” can be referring to the same thing as “seat.”
  • Never pretends to read a book by telling the story from memory.
  • Has no recognition of their own name in print.

Finally, our pediatric speech therapists in Estero will analyze spelling/writing issues among young children. These include:

  • Limited ability or interest in pretending to write by drawing or scribbling.
  • Seeming to have no understanding that writing and drawing are different activities.
  • Trouble copying simple shapes and lines.
  • Reluctant to attempt writing numbers or letters.

These symptoms can evolve and look a bit different in older children. Pediatric speech therapists at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) break down further the later-stage indicators of written language disorder.

How Can Pediatric Speech Therapists Help?

Our Estero pediatric speech therapists are equipped with the expertise needed to diagnose and treat written language disorders. We may also recommend teaming with occupational therapy as well.

Once we’ve conducted a comprehensive evaluation and identified underlying issues, we then formulate our intervention strategies. These include:

  • Phonological awareness training. This involves enhancing the child’s ability to recognize and manipulate sounds in words – something that’s foundational for reading and spelling. Activities might include rhyming, segmenting and sound blending.
  • Decoding and fluency. We’ll work to teach kids ways to improve their word recognition and reading fluency. This can involve explicit instructions in phonics, repeated practice with reading and use of multisensory techniques.
  • Writing instruction. We’ll help the child develop better writing skills with targeted exercises, such as practicing “beginning, middle, and end” of stories, as well as using graphics and visuals to help plan storytelling and writing.
  • Handwriting improvement. This is often thought of as more in the realm of occupational therapists, but pediatric speech therapists work on it too. We use tools for copying, tracing, and fine motor exercises to improve legibility and neatness.

On top of all this, we encourage parent and caregiver involvement and support, educating parents about the disorder and providing strategies they can work on at home, such as reading together, games to practice spelling words, and encouraging writing in a variety of contexts.

FOCUS Therapy offers pediatric speech therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to kids from Estero, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Written Language Disorders, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Upcoming Sensory Friendly Activities in Fort Myers, Naples, and SWFL, April 30, 2024, Fort Myers Pediatric Speech Therapists Blog

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