Most Frequent Disorders in Child Language Development

shutterstock_75757024Language acquisition is one of the most complex of human processes. For many years, it was considered a basic human competency.  However, lately it has become, for many psychologists, the most special process, one which is biologically programmed.

At any rate, language development influences both people and global evolution. It allows communication, establishes social relationships and regulates our behavior. Therefore, the process of teaching and learning revolves around this complex acquisition and ultimately so does a school’s success.

This is why teachers should be aware of the most common disorders of the language of our students. Recognizing these will help pupils to receive early care and the appropriate treatment. Only through this recognition can we alleviate shortcomings and prevent further difficulties.
Most frequent disorders in child language development.

  1. Dyslalia. Dyslalia is an articulatory disorder in which very often children do not pronounce sounds clearly or they replace one sound for another. It is the most common language impairment. Providing correct oral models, along with family counseling, often helps solve the problem. It requires speech therapy intervention.
  2. Mild language delay. This occurs in children without apparent pathological cause, and presents as a delay in the development of language compared with children of the same chronological age. A language delay can be receptive, expressive, or a combination of both. Speech and language therapy is required.
  3. Mutism. This is the total disappearance of language, either gradually or suddenly. The most common type of silence is called “selective”.  In this case the child refuses to talk to certain people or in certain contexts.  It is generally associated with other underlying problems. If the real causes of the problem are addressed it is usually solved.
  4. Dysphonia. This is a voice disorder affecting the vocal chords (tone, whistle voice, melody).  Usually, it occurs because of an impairment of the vocal chords and eventually vocal cords can fail and as a result the voice has a hoarseness, which over time can become worse. Screaming children can suffer in the future from Dysphonia.
  5. Aphasia. This is total or partial loss of language due to a brain injury. The consequences for children are often less devastating than in adults because brain plasticity in children makes it possible for them to recover their language.
  6. Stammering. This is an alteration in the rhythm of speech, characterized by a series of spasmodic hesitations and repetitions. Some children around three years old may suffer from this disorder, but frequently it is due to an evolutionary characteristic which will disappear with time. Symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
    • Linguistic aspects: Fillers, disorganization between thought and language, etc.
    • Behavioral aspects: Anxiety, withdrawal, muteness, etc.
    • Body and breathing aspects: Spasms, respiratory disorders, facial stiffness, etc.
  7. Dysglossia. Articulation disorders caused by a malformation of speech organs such as lips, tongue or palate. In these cases the family are referred to a specialist.
  8. Dysarthria. Articulation disorders caused by a neurological etiology, which it is why it is often associated with other types of disorders as well. Often it is associated with cerebral palsy and therefore it requires specialized intervention.
  9. Autism. This is a disorder characterized by the presence of a severe communication barrier and a lack of social interaction. Some of the most common characteristics of this type of language are the involuntary repetition of words or phrases and difficulties in articulating and receiving information. There are three types of profiles:
    • Mutism or absence of language
    • Early onset of language loss and possible gradual subsequent acquisition
    • Delayed language development
  10. Hearing impairment. Deafness is not a language disorder in itself, but can cause it. This is because it prevents or reduces the exposure to speech sounds that are basic requirements for children to develop speech.

Ainoa Cano




I’m a teacher. What should I know about dyslexia?

Alphabet inside of men's heads face to face contrasting order and chaosTeachers can be in contact throughout their career with countless pupils with Special Educational Needs, and some of them will be more frequently found in the classroom than others. This is the case with dislexia, which can be found in 1 in every 25 students according to some researchers.

What is it about?

Dyslexia is a learning disability where the child’s ability to read or write is located below his/her level of intelligence. It is caused by an impediment of the brain pertaining to the capacity of seeing the words. However, this issue is not related to intelligence. Nowadays, there is a inclination to use dyslexia with any problems in reading.


To make dyslexia clear, you will find below some of the more frequent characteristics of people with dyslexia:

  • Reverse words totally or partially, such as was/saw.
  • Reverse letters, such as “p” with “b” or “d” for “b”. Often they reverse letters even when they know the spelling of the word.
  • Reading can be a difficult task because they can’t tell apart certain letters or they confuse them mentally.
  • They write the same word in different ways.
  • It is difficult to see that a word is misspelled.
  • Odd spelling mistakes happen.
  • They copy the words wrong even when they are looking at the correct spelling.
  • They have difficulty distinguishing left from right.

Dyslexia is often confused with a lack of evolutionary maturity. So I advise to think about it more often when we get some problems with our students’ reading. Anyway, don’t panic too much now thinking that even you may be dyslexic. I remember myself when I was a child mixing up “A” and “4”, which make me see letters in the calculator or number between some words; and I was not dyslexic! Just because you have a few of the symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you are dyslexic.

Is dyslexia for life?

There is some controversy over this point. Some think that dyslexia is a condition which lasts a
lifetime, but can be minimised with the right treatment.  Others, however, think it can be ‘cured’.  Regardless, both agree that with appropriate support, children with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. So the sooner the rehabilitation work is started, the lower the impact.

Is dyslexia linked to other disorders?

Yes, dyslexia is linked to other problems of learning sometimes, such as:

  • Dysgraphia: difficulties in the correct layout of the letters in the parallelism of the lines, the size of the letters and the pressure of writing …
  • Dysorthography: difficulties in the remembering correct spelling rules and patterns at a more advanced level.
  • Dyslalia: It is a disorder in the articulation of phonemes.This is an inability to correctly pronounce certain phonemes or groups of phonemes.

Educational strategies

Once the student is diagnosed as dyslexic, it can be fairly helpful to use some of these guidelines:

  1. The first thing we must do, when we have in our classroom a child with dyslexia, is to explain the disorder to the rest of their classmates. Otherwise, other students can see the adaptations as a privilege instead of a special educational need.
  2. Use an agenda because dyslexics often have short-term memory problems.
  3. In many cases, we can find that the student is suffering also from dysgraphia, where their writing will be severely affected and may become unreadable. In these cases we must allow the student work on a computer.The computer is one of the most useful tools for people with dyslexia.
  4. If possible the child should be allowed to take exams orally or have more time in written tests.
  5. Allow these children to read books at a lower level to the rest of the class, appropriate to their reading level. It will be even better if the pupil can choose the book. Our main goal is to achieve that students with dyslexia begin to feel curious and motivated by the world of letters.
  6. Use the recorder as a reinforcing resource. You can both record important lessons to help the student study more easily at home.
  7. To read aloud in front of peers, it would be beneficial to give them in advance the specific text which you will all read in the classroom. This gives them the opportunity of reading without pressure.
  8. Use multisensory methods relating to what they see, hear and feel.

Ainoa Cano

5 EDUCATIONAL STRATEGIES for working with a child with AUTISM

imagesIncreasingly, teachers seem to be more sensitive to the importance of proper care of children with Special Educational Needs. The problem of SEN it is more visible today, increased awareness of the problem means we can address it. Being aware is the first step, which is a good thing, but do we know how to take action? Do we know how to deal with teaching a child with autism in our classroom?

First of all, we are not doctors, we are teachers, and as such, we should not agonize pretending to dominate the theory about each disorder showed for a student. Either with autism. However, we should become experts in our own right setting by embracing as many teaching strategies as we can to enhance learning. When children feel safe and happy they learn better.

I am not suggesting we do not further our knowledge on the subject. I invite you to look for it and professionalize yourselves as much as you can. A good base of previous knowledge about autism could help us when we get down to work and being prepared for certain behaviors. But I am saying we should not lose focus on the teaching.

Therefore, I will just clarify briefly some of the characteristics of autism in order to focus on the 5 educational strategies.

What is Autism? Autism is a complex neurological disorder that impairs the ability of individuals to communicate and interact with others. This predisposes the person to routines and repetitive behaviors, such as strange obsessions with some objects or following very specific routines without any possibility of variability. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe.curioso incidente.001

It is often teachers who notice unusual behaviors in their students. Hence the importance of  being aware that teachers are also observers. Once it is diagnosed, early intervention is crucial. As soon as autism is diagnosed, the intervention should start with focus on developing communication skills, socialization and cognitive programme.

The following five strategies are some of the best known. Both, teachers and support staff, maximize the chances of improving behaviour, language and communication skills of children with autism when they apply these strategies:

1.VISUAL CALENDARS. Visual aids play an important role as these children find it easier to understand and communicate through images. Working with visual aids will help them
achieve structure, reduce stress and improve understanding.  A visual calendar provides pictures of the day’s activities. This helps students to know exactly what to do an when, or predict what is happening.

2. COMIC STRIP CONVERSATIONS. Creating conversations through comics allows the child to better understand what is happening, join in a conversation or understand feeling and intentions of others.

3. THE PICTURE COMMUNICATION EXCHANGE SYSTEM (PECS) Teachers use pictures as symbols to teach children the names of different objects. Gradually the child is taught to exchange a picture for the object he or she wants, to construct simple sentences using te pictures, and indicate choices between various objects.

4. SOCIAL STORIES. Stories with pictures and simple words (for children who can read) help them to deal with specific situations, such as riding a bus, hiking or hearing the fire alarm during a drill.

5. ROLE-PLAYING. Thought theater and role playing games we have an excellent opportunity to teach social norms, such as greetings or classroom skills.

TIP 1! Use computer software packages to write out stories, descriptions and instructions in both words and symbols simultaneously. In addition, there are many APPS for autism. You will find a summary in a book called An essential guide to over 200 effective Apps! (available in Amazon).

TIP 2! Read a book to understand their behavior and way of thinking, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Ainoa Cano