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Language Based Learning Disorders and How Speech Therapy Can Help
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Neurological Disorders in Children: Early Development is Critical
Language Based Learning Disorders and How Speech Therapy Can Help
Language is the way that we connect with others, describe our situation, needs, and wants, and how we perceive the world around us. Sometimes as children are learning how to speak and use language, they can run into issues that can affect their ability to understand or speak a language effectively. Not all speaking or language issues are the same and we will look at those today that are specific to the comprehension of speech and writing rather than their ability to produce the correct sounds or tones. Language based learning disorders (LBLDs) are as the name suggests learning disorders that affect a person’s ability to use or comprehend speech or writing in an effective manner.
How language learning disorders are divided
As explained by Stanford Health, language based learning disorders typically fall into two categories. Mixed receptive expressive and expressive. When someone has a mixed receptive expressive language disorder, it means that they will have trouble understanding the meaning of what is being said to them, while those struggling with expressive language disorders have a harder time with clearly expressing thoughts and ideas in a verbal manner.
Some common symptoms of a receptive learning disorder may be:
- Problems processing what is being said
- Difficulties with comprehending gestures
- Understanding overall concepts and ideas
- Trouble following directions
- Difficulty with replying to questions
- Difficulty properly identifying objects
Common symptoms of an expressive disorder may be:
- Trouble with expressing thoughts and ideas
- Unable to ask questions
- Difficulty naming people, place or objects
- Using words incorrectly
- Trouble with telling stories or singing songs
How LBLDs differ from Speech impairments
While on the surface, speech impairments and LBLDs may seem to have a lot of characteristics in common, the origin and structure tend to be very far apart. According to Understood.org speech impairments are specifically issues that have to do with sound. Whether it is articulating sounds correctly or problems with pitch and volume, speech impairments are more technical problems that have to do with specific movements that involve the mouth, tongue and vocal tract. In these cases, the child may have trouble making a specific sound that is used in the language they are trying to speak. This can also be common in situations where the children are being raised bilingually, where a sound that is common in one language is not use as much or at all in the other language.
LBLDs on the other hand, tend to be more broad, with an entire spectrum of symptoms that can fall under the umbrella. LBLDs have more to do with how difficulties with processing information can lead to issues with speech and language as opposed to actual physical impediments. In these cases the children may be able to hear the words correctly and speak the words correctly, but there is a disconnect where they do not understand the meaning or intent behind the words being heard or spoken. However, this is not to say that both cannot be issues for a child, but that origin of the problem stems from a difference in brain structure that can also encompass comprehension and processing as well as physical movements that have to be correctly coordinated to produce the desired speech sounds.
How speech therapy addresses learning disorders
The main goal of speech therapy in terms of learning disorders is to address problem spots. If a child is able to read and understand the material but has difficulty pronouncing the words, then the focus will be put on language skills while another child may require more comprehension based problem solving. A speech therapist will assess various skill areas such as reading, writing, oral communication as well as other aspects such as memory and information processing hone in ways to improve performance in day-to-day activities.
The way that this is addressed in session is through various activities such as articulation exercises, application of strategies on actual assignments as well as coaching and comprehension activities. As always, a good initial assessment from a qualified specialist will help to identify where your child is at developmentally and what areas they are having difficulty with. Once this is established, a plan can be created to identify areas of concern and therapy can begin.
Solace Speech therapy
At Solace, our speech therapists can not only help identify any issues that stem from language based learning disorders but are able to create an individualized plan of action with the child and family to ensure that all trouble spots are addressed in a way that is best for your child’s individual needs and personality.
The term “neurologic disorder” applies to any condition that is caused by a dysfunction in part of the brain or nervous system, resulting in physical and/or psychological symptoms. Even though all neurologic disorders involve the brain, spinal column or nerves, the symptoms associated with any neurologic disorder depends on where the damage occurs. For instance, some symptoms can affect motor function, communication, vision, hearing, or thinking.
Neurologic disorders are wide ranging, have a multitude of causes, complications, and outcomes. Many of which require life-long management. These disorders can vary from epilepsy to migraine headaches to tic or movement disorders and more. In children, the damage can be especially acute as most brain cells are formed before birth but the trillions of connections between these nerve cells (neurons) are not developed until infancy.
Causes of Neurologic Disorder
Many neurologic disorders are “congenital,” meaning children were born with the disorder, such as spina bifida or hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain), or they acquire the disorder later in life, usually the result of a traumatic injury or serious infection. Those with an unknown cause are termed “idiopathic. In general, there are 3 main factors or causes which lead to Neurologic Disorders: Congenital, Pre/perinatal, and “Acquired” (those developed after birth).
Congenital Causes (present at birth)
Genetic factors can influence the development of a variety of neurologic disorders that are typically inherited from parents through genes and chromosomes.
- Gene abnormalities
Genes are responsible for determining characteristics. Changes in genes (called mutations) therefore change characteristics. Some mutations cause abnormalities that are damaging to individuals (for example, cystic fibrosis). Mutations can be passed on to offspring affecting their characteristics.
- Chromosome abnormalities
Changes in chromosomes, whether in number or in structure, have large effects on characteristics because they contain large numbers of genes.
- Change in chromosome number
The term monosomy refers to a loss of one chromosome out of a pair (for example, Turner syndrome which only affects females). In trisomy, an extra chromosome has been gained by a pair (for example, Down syndrome).
- Change in chromosome structure
Microdeletions result in a loss of genes (fragments of DNA) from a chromosome. Microduplications occur when genes (fragments of DNA) are gained. Examples of such genetic conditions include cri-du-chat, Prader-Willi, and Angelman syndromes.
- Change in chromosome number
- Metabolic disorders
Metabolism refers to the chemical processes that occur in the body. Metabolic disorders can cause lasting damage and must be identified as early as possible (for example, through blood or urine tests). Many metabolic disorders are detected at birth as blood samples are sent for ‘universal newborn screening’. In the United States, each state has its own guidelines as to what screening testing is done and not all countries have such screening programs
- Congenital malformation
Congenital ‘defects’ are believed to be the result of complex interactions between genes, environment and behaviors. An example is tuberous sclerosis, a condition where children have growths in regions such as the brain, heart, eyes, skin, kidneys and lungs. They may experience epilepsy, learning difficulties/impairments and autism.
- Toxins and environmental factors
Neurotoxins can enter and damage a child’s developing system through the placenta during fetal development. Consequently, a child may develop intellectual and behavioral problems. Neurotoxins include alcohol (linked to fetal alcohol syndrome), lead (linked to intelligence, learning and memory problems), mercury (linked to learning and development disorders), tobacco (linked to challenging behaviors and developmental impairments) and some food additives (linked to higher rates of ADHD in children).
- Nutritional deficiencies
Nutrients are needed for growth. A deficiency of nutrients during the last three months of pregnancy can decrease the number of brain cells. A deficiency of folic acid (a B vitamin) could lead to a neural tube defect (NTD)—for example, spina bifida (open spine).
TORCH infections, including sexually transmitted infections, can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. As reflected by the letters in the name, TORCH infections include Toxoplasmosis, Other infections (hepatitis B, syphilis, varicella-Zoster virus, HIV and Parovirus B19), Rubella, Cytomegalovirus and Herpes simplex virus. These infections can cause developmental abnormalities in the unborn child. Chorioamnionitis, a bacterial infection, can be a cause of cerebral palsy.
Perinatal asphyxia is the condition resulting from a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Hypoxic ischemia is insufficient blood flow causing reduced blood oxygen content. If a developing baby in the uterus does not have enough oxygen, then it may have hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (neurologic damage caused by low oxygen). The effects of severe hypoxic ischemia can include cerebral palsy, intellectual impairments, and epilepsy.
- Complications during childbirth
The protective skull is not fully formed at birth making the brain vulnerable to physical injury. The supply of blood and oxygen from the umbilical cord can also become affected at birth. As the brain is dependent upon this supply of oxygen, deprivation of oxygen can cause brain damage.
- Prematurity/low birth weight
Low birth weight may indicate growth problems in the womb and has been associated with a greater likelihood of developing cognitive impairments, speech and language impairments, attention problems, social difficulties, hyperactivity and learning impairments. Some may arise because of associated complications during childbirth.
- Interaction effects
A number of factors, including heredity, gene expression, the environment, infectious disease, poor nutrition, stress, drugs, and other chemicals, can interact in complex ways to cause some neurologic disorders.
Acquired Causes (Developed After Birth)
Disorders acquired after birth are less common than Congenital causes, but they include:
- Immune disorders
Immune disorder, such as autoimmune encephalitis, can cause emotional challenges, abnormal body movements and seizures. Children with such problems can develop symptoms over several months and the diagnosis is challenging and frequently involves analysis of blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
- Postnatal infections
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can be caused by many types of infection (usually viral). Some children may develop neurologic long-term consequences following encephalitis, including memory problems, behavioral changes, speech impairments, and epilepsy.
- Meningitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection that inflames the meninges (membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord). The inflammation and swelling can damage the brain and nerves. Complications are more likely following bacterial meningitis than with viral meningitis. Lasting symptoms include hearing impairments, memory difficulties, coordination, and balance problems, learning impairments, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, speech impairments, and loss of vision.
- Traumatic brain injury
This occurs when trauma to the head results in damage to the brain. There are three main types of traumatic brain injury (TBI):
- Closed head injuries – where no damage is visible; these are common in car accidents.
- Open wounds – where the brain is exposed and damaged by an object.
- Crushing injuries– where the head is crushed, and brain damage occurs.
Evidence suggests that children’s brains are susceptible to lasting damage from TBI due to a disruption of the nervous system during development.
- Spinal cord injuries
Car accidents, falls, or sports accidents can cause spinal cord injuries. The degree of damage depends on where the damage occurs and what part of the body the injured spinal area controls. Spinal injuries can lead to loss of muscle function.
Neoplasm is an abnormal mass of tissue producing tumors. Tumors can develop in the brain or spinal cord. They can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Malignant tumors are the most dangerous, so early diagnosis is very important. Benign tumors can have neurologic consequences as they increase pressure on other parts of the brain, damaging healthy tissue. Symptoms include seizures, limb weakness, difficulty walking, speech impairments and swallowing difficulties, strange sensations, learning impairments, challenging behaviors, or vision and hearing impairments.
Exposure to environmental chemicals or toxins during childhood can lead to neurologic impairment.
Warning Signs of Neurologic Disorder
Some of the early warning signs that your child might suffer from a neurologic disorder are as follows:
- Abnormal muscle tone at birth
- Floppy baby (limited self-motor function)
- Subtle staring or unresponsive episodes
- Slow langue and/or motor skills
- Decrease in the achievement of standard pediatric developmental milestones
Early diagnosis and intervention are key. If your child’s behavior has changed dramatically, call their pediatrician for an evaluation. Once the underlying cause of a developmental delay is diagnosed, therapy can prove to be helpful.
Solace Pediatric Home Healthcare Occupational Therapists
If you are concerned that your child may suffer from Neurologic Disorders or have recently received an official diagnosis, Solace Pediatric Health Care offers experienced Occupational Therapists who come to your home and work with your child one-on-one. This approach allows for both the parents and the clinician to work together to provide personalized care in a way that helps the child feel the most comfortable. A home setting is also ideal in helping the family seamlessly integrate the lessons into daily family routine. The familiar environment allows the optimal conditions for a child to achieve the best results, and it is convenient. Simply said, in-home therapy saves time, transportation costs, and the hassle of the back-and-forth travel.
Our therapists specialize in early intervention and provide occupational, speech, and physical therapy. We believe in continuity of care, and seek to ensure that in-home therapy is provided by the same clinician who is familiar with your child’s individualized needs, goals, and overall progress.
If you would like to speak with someone who can help you to get started, please do not hesitate to contact us at 303-432-8487, option 1 or visit our parental referral page to get in touch for an evaluation of your child.
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