Many children with language difficulties have problems with the processing of language. Their ability to take in, to organize, to store, to retrieve, to add to existing information and to express what they want to say as and when required is weak.
This problem may manifest itself most noticeably in reading and writing or in understanding what is being said rather than in spoken language. This in turn may affect learning at school in various ways and as such can have serious consequences for the child. Researchers believe that this deficit in language processing may be intricately connected with the way in which children perceive sounds.
Children may inherit a language processing problem. A child may also develop hearing habits which are inefficient for language intake as a result of repeated bouts of hearing loss or reduced hearing in one or both ears in early childhood. However there are many children for whom there is no obvious reason for their difficulty. While we are still a long way from understanding the cause of many speech and language problems, we are more able to understand the underlying difficulties a child may be having.
The language centres are situated in the left hemisphere of the brain for nearly all right handed individuals as well as the majority of those who are left handed. The quickest and most efficient way for language to reach the processing area in the left hemisphere is dominantly via the right ear. The left ear provides a supporting role. Inconsistent or left ear preference can adversely affect the learning of language and its organization within the brain.
As a result sounds within words, words themselves or even whole sentences may be jumbled or in the wrong sequence. This in turn may affect the understanding and production of both speech and writing. Where language is poorly organized a child will have to work hard to unravel what is said to him and may be unable to sustain the level of concentration required to do so thus affecting learning.
Camilla Leslie and Nicola Robinson, Speech and Language Therapists.
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