Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLD): A Primer

By Melody O’Neil

In part one of the five-part series, What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability?, Bob Broudo talks about the early awareness of and research into Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLDs). This is part two. Part three will discuss remediation, four early intervention, and five a day-in-the-life of a family with children with LBLD.

Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLDs) refer to an array of difficulties related to the understanding or processing of both spoken and written language. The number and severity of language difficulties can vary widely from person to person. LBLDs can affect the following areas:graphic glossary of language-based learning disability terms

  • reading
  • listening (auditory processing)
  • oral expression/word retrieval (expressive language)
  • oral comprehension (receptive language)
  • written expression (spelling, grammar, and mechanics)
  • mathematics

When we talk about reading, we’re referring to three main areas: decoding (word attack/phonological awareness), reading fluency, and reading comprehension.

LBLD, Dyslexia, and Related Disabilities

An individual diagnosed with an LBLD often has the specific diagnosis of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a phonologically-based reading disability that results in difficulty decoding words accurately, which affects reading fluency and then reading comprehension.

graphic of skills person with language-based learning disability struggles withNot all people diagnosed with an LBLD have dyslexia, although the majority will. It may be that their basic decoding and reading skills are intact; however, they may struggle with other areas of language processing and written or verbal expression. These difficulties may include:

  • dysgraphia, a disorder that affects spelling, punctuation, and handwriting
  • dyscalculia, a disorder that affects someone’s number sense, math reasoning, and ability to process math facts
  • executive functioning, which limits one’s capacity to initiate and complete tasks, stay organized, manage time, and plan
  • a language disorder (formerly called mixed receptive-expressive language disorder) that affects written and oral comprehension and expression

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), and anxiety disorders are often seen as comorbid, or commonly occurring diagnoses for people with LBLDs.

Understanding the Cognitive Profile

language-based learning disability big picture thinkers graphicAn extremely important piece in defining and diagnosing an LBLD includes looking carefully at the individual’s cognitive profile. A person with an LBLD is going to have difficulties in reading, writing, listening, and speaking, despite having average to above-average cognitive ability, specifically in the areas of verbal comprehension, visual-spatial abilities, and fluid reasoning or problem solving.

Although the LBLD individual may have somewhat lower working memory and/or processing speed, they have an overall strong ability for reasoning, problem solving, and “big-picture thinking.” They are bright, visual, and hands-on kinesthetic learners who tend to struggle more auditorily (listening).

Next Steps

If you feel that your child/student is struggling at school and suspect that they may have an LBLD, the first step to take is to have either psycho-educational testing (done through the public school system) or neuropsychological testing (done privately). Testing will provide information regarding current levels of cognitive, academic, and language functioning. This will also help with making recommendations regarding possible next steps to take and services that may be needed.

Most importantly, continue to encourage your child/student, understand they are struggling, and remember that support is available for all types of learners. 

Stay tuned for part three of our series, Help Your Struggling Learner: Remediation Is a Key to Success.

Through Landmark Schools blog, Landmark360.org, we launched the five-part series What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability? in conjunction with Dyslexia Awareness Month. This is the second article in the series. Other articles will address assessment of LBLD, remediation of LBLD, early intervention, and a case study of a family with two children with LBLDs. 

mel headMelody O’Neil is Associate Director of Admission at Landmark School

One Comment Add yours

  1. Melissa Rosse says:

    Very informative! Thank you for posting!

    Like

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