Specific Language Impairment


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Specific language impairment or the SLI (as it is often called) is often confused with dyslexia, and people tend to start considering these two as the one and the same disability. Sometimes in fact, during early childhood, a doctor may even end up diagnosing the condition wrong owing to the similar looking characteristics. However, though quite similar to each other on numerous grounds, the two conditions are marked by certain very specific characteristic symptoms and effects that help distinguish between them as two separate disabilities.

For instance, specific language impairment is a learning disability that affects the communication process of an individual. They have a problem developing what can be called as ‘language skills’, which prevents them from learning and using language in a normal pattern to communicate successfully. Most of the times, a person suffering from specific language impairment would be seen using small sentences and a very restricted vocabulary to express their thoughts. Complex sentences may not be easily understood by them either. However, it is important to note that syntax and phonology concepts grow and develop with age in SLI individuals, just like in any normal human being.

On the other hand, in dyslexia, the individual’s language problems are more closely related to visual, sequencing and hearing impairments. Unlike specific language impairment, here syntax and phonology concepts may not develop well enough, though the person’s vocabulary may be extremely good.

Thus, it can be said that while specific language impairment is strictly related to language learning issues only, the effects of dyslexia are more far reaching for an individual.

However, it may be important to mention here that in spite of all the differences between the two, specific language impairment and dyslexia could be closely related to each other sometimes. For instance, it has been established that about 50% of the individuals suffering from specific language disorder end up developing dyslexia during the later stages in life. This usually happens when the SLI is not handled well and the child develops extremely complex reading and writing problems.

The treatment processes for both learning disorders vary but then at the same time, they are also very closely interlinked to each other. The core concept applying in both the situations, for instance, revolves around the idea that nothing works better than constant encouragement from the family and lots of practice. The practice sessions should ideally be done in both formal and informal environment, so as to train the individual’s mind thoroughly to fight the disorder. If dealt with well, any human can lead a normal life regardless of how severe their specific language disorder or dyslexia happens to be.


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