Why Your Primary School Child May Be Struggling in School Even Though He or She Does Not Have Dyslexia

Our speech language therapist helps teachers and parents understand more about children with speech articulation difficulties and shares some teaching tips

SLI refers Specific Language Impairment that is not caused by low IQ, sensory issues such as hearing impairment, or other conditions such as ASD. It is also different from dyslexia, which is a reading difficulty, even though some children may have both.

SLI occurs in 7% of children, making it one of the most common learning disabilities. In contrast, stuttering or ASD affects only 1% of the population.

If your child has SLI, he or she may show signs of language difficulties such as:
1. Limited vocabulary, equivalent to up to a 2-year delay, i.e. a Primary 3 student may have the vocabulary of a Primary 1 student. This means that your child understands and uses fewer words, and may often use non-specific words such as ‘this one’, or ‘this thing’.

2. Shorter sentence structures, equivalent to up to a 2-year delay, i.e. a Primary 5 student having difficulties constructing longer sentences and may write like a Primary 3 student.

3. Poorer grammar skills relative to vocabulary and sentence structures, equivalent to more than a 2-year delay, and ‘getting stuck’ before they can reach basic proficiency.

One striking SLI symptom is consistently saying or writing sentences with obvious grammatical mistakes even when your child have already reached middle or upper primary level. They may say “Kayden crying” instead of “Kayden is crying”; “He go home” when it should be “He went home” or “He go where?” when it should be “Where did he go?”

Your child may have normal or above average IQ but have a real and specific difficulty processing language just as some people may have specific difficulty processing music or maps.

Other implications: SLI puts your child at risk of academic as well as emotional or social difficulties. Studies indicate that more than 50-75% SLI children have problems reading, and they are 3 times more likely to be bullied.

Your child can improve with professional help. Speech and language therapists are specially trained to diagnose and help children with SLI.

Allow your child to get professional help as early as possible.