How A Language Specialist Looks At Reading
Speech and language patterns are established between birth and five years of age. The visual and auditory channels are used primarily for this acquisition, using skills in the areas of reception, association, understanding, discrimination, closure, figure ground, organization, vocabulary, and expression. The result of ‘normal’ functioning in all of the above mentioned visual and auditory areas is an intact language system that allows a child to receive information, decode and understand, as well as formulate and produce verbal responses. Thus the communication system is firmly established by the time a child enters school. A breakdown along the line of sequential acquisition of speech and/or language milestones would warrant investigation into many of the auditory and visual skill areas.
Reading and academics build on this already established system. The first thing that is established is a letter/sound recognition system. Then reading comprehension begins to emerge, just as comprehension of spoken or oral language began to emerge years before. Reading comprehension is a secondary language skill that has phonetic, syntactic, semantic, and memory components. If secondary learning (reading, academics) does not proceed satisfactorily, then the language system should be examined to determine if there are deficits in this area. This involves looking into the areas of reception, association, understanding, memory, discrimination, organization, vocabulary, and expression. Patterns of difficulty in one or more of these areas can account for trouble in acquiring the mechanics of reading and/or comprehension. There are language tests that are designed to look at these areas and determine a child’s skill level in relation to other children of his age. As always, when looking at a problem, there are certain patterns that are important to determine if the correct cause is being identified. The plan of treatment is individualized according to the particular profile. Strengths are identified as well as weaknesses. These low areas are remediated as much as possible, and compensation is taught using the stronger channels. Skill levels are taught using academics when possible to achieve greater cross-over into school work.
Early identification is the key to successful remediation or compensation. There are patterns of difficulty that are able to be identified as early as pre-kindergarten. More subtle problems may not surface until upper elementary grades with problems in reading comprehension or written expression. These patterns of difficulty may be displayed in visual, auditory, reading, or writing areas, and can aid the parent, teacher, or reading specialist in determining if a complete speech and language evaluation is indicated. The profile of results can identify the child who has a language-based reading problem as opposed to other reasons for academic difficulty. If correctly identified and remediated individually according to strengths and weaknesses, progress is much faster and more complete.