Literacy Disorders

Speech – Language Therapists' expertise in speech and language development allow unusual insight into underling deficits that can negatively affect reading abilities. Our knowledge base in the components of language (include phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics) can improve a child's reading and thereby writing ability, as language and reading are interrelated. We are trained to identify normal language, delayed language, language differences and, language disorders. Our role in reading intervention is designed to target the underlying language weaknesses that make the reading process difficult. The Speech – Language Therapists' expertise of language can help identify, assess, and treat individuals with reading difficulties (Gravani & Meyer, 2007).

Speech -Language Therapists are well trained in the areas of phonology, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency including oral reading, and reading comprehension. These areas play a crucial role in the development of reading. Difficulties can occur in the production, comprehension, and awareness within any language component at the sound, syllable, word, sentence, and discourse levels. Problems in these areas may interfere with the attainment of literacy skills needed to succeed academically.

Most people associate reading disorders as being 'dyslexic' but that is not necessarily the case. While dyslexia does incorporate difficulties with reading, there are many other problems a person may face with reading that does not necessarily mean they are dyslexic, sometimes resulting in misdiagnosis.

Reading Disorders

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify phonemes as the units that make up syllables and words, and usually appears in children at age 6 or 7 (Bankson & Bernthal, 2007). It requires metalinguistic skills and a child's ability to separate a word from its meaning. Children who are learning to read must be able to understand that written words are composed of graphemes (letters), which is necessary in learning to decode. Difficulties in decoding can impair word recognition, which in turn influences reading fluency and comprehension. Phonemic awareness requires both cognitive and language skills (Catts & Kamhi,2005).

Rhyme, alliteration, and syllable awareness have been viewed as developmental early indicators of phonological awareness. It is also the foundation for learning the alphabetic principle which is an essential part of reading. Bankson & Bernthal (2007) state "children must coordinate knowledge about print form with that of phonological structure". A child who experiences slight hearing loss or possibly undetected hearing loss during these developmental years may not fully acquire or maintain the phonological system which can later impact decoding skills. That is why it is necessary to get an audiological evaluation before pursuing reading therapy. Pre-school children with phonological impairments are more likely to encounter problems with phonological awareness and literacy.


Phonics is the ability to recognise grapheme (letter) and phoneme (sound) correspondence. Phonics improves word recognition, spelling and reading comprehension. Studies have shown that phonological skills are the fundamentals for decoding. Assisting children in developing accurate representations of the relationship between phonemes and graphemes facilitates reading achievement (Catts & Kamhi, 2005). Children with dyslexia have difficulty with sound-symbol correspondence, which impedes the development of phonemic awareness and phonics (Catts & Kamhi 2005). Teaching them the corresponding sounds and their letter names in isolation, syllable, word, and phrase level early on will likely reduce increased reading difficulties.


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