Written Language Disorders

Signs and symptoms of written language disorders vary across individuals, depending on the language domain(s) affected, severity and level of disruption to communication, age of the individual, and stage of linguistic development.

In preschool and kindergarten, children who are at risk for reading disorders are likely to exhibit difficulty with phonological awareness and phonics (Torgensen, 2002, 2004). This problem may continue as they struggle to develop the skills they need for accurate and fluent word recognition.

Some children are identified as having reading difficulties only when they reach higher elementary grades (fourth grade and above), when the focus of reading changes from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” (Chall, 1983) and the emphasis shifts from word recognition and spelling to reading comprehension and use of reading comprehension strategies (Leach, Scarborough, & Rescorla, 2003).

Poor reading comprehension test scores in these post-primary grades can be the first indicators of reading problems. These difficulties are likely to be accompanied by weak higher order comprehension skills in areas such as metacognitive awareness (e.g., Anderson, 1980; Wong & Wong, 1986) and use of strategies to aid comprehension (e.g., Hare & Pulliam, 1980; Kletzein, 1991). Comprehension difficulties also may reflect mild or well-disguised reading acquisition problems (e.g., word-level reading skills) that become more severe with increasing word-level decoding demands (e.g., Juel, 1991; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Perfetti, 1985; Salceda, Alonso, & Castilla-Earls, 2013).

See signs and symptoms of written language disorders. Be mindful that some signs and symptoms may be influenced by cultural and linguistic variations and are not indicative of a disorder.

School-age children and adolescents with disorders of reading and writing are also likely to have spoken language difficulties. See spoken language disorders for a list of associated signs and symptoms.

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