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Language Disorders Are Learning Disabilities: Challenges on the Divergent and Diverse Paths to Language Learning Disability

Sun, Lei; Wallach, Geraldine P.

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000005
Original Articles

This article takes readers along the pathway of language learning and disorders across childhood and adolescence, highlighting the complex relationship between early (preschool) language disorders and later (school age) learning disabilities. The discussion starts with a review of diagnostic labels widely used in schools and other professional settings. The sometimes confusing interpretations of labels such as specific language impairment and specific learning disabilities are discussed. We outline key relations that exist among language proficiency, language disorders, and school success and emphasize the centrality of language in literacy and academic success within a conceptual framework that addresses both inherent factors (e.g., abilities the language a child “comes with” to school including one's foundational literacy levels) and external factors (e.g., classroom dynamics, textbook language). We argue that mismatches between these factors come together in a manner that is best captured by the term, language learning disability. We end with a summary of key points that encourage professionals to reevaluate and challenge the traditional view that children and adolescents with language disorders are a separate and distinct population from those with learning disabilities.

Department of Communicative Disorders, California State University, Long Beach.

Corresponding Author: Geraldine P. Wallach, PhD, CCC-SLP, Department of Communicative Disorders, California State University, Long Beach, CSULB 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840 (geraldine.wallach@csulb.edu).

The authors thank Dr. Joel Stark, the “Father” of LLD, for his inspiration and support and for suggesting the title for this article.

The authors have indicated that they have no financial and no nonfinancial relationships to disclose.

© 2014Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins