How do language difficulties affect learning?

How do language difficulties affect learning?

Language is the primary medium of learning. Everything we are expected to learn is either heard or read. Our skills are demonstrated through words or written language.

Language-based learning disabilities are problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing.

It is therefore not surprising, that language difficulties can interfere with academic performance. Language is not just another subject at school; it is the means by which all other subjects are learned.

The vast majority of children with learning disabilities have a language-based disorder which is amenable to treatment.

The following difficulties may suggest that a child has language difficulties:

  • Expressing ideas clearly, as if the words needed are on the tip of the tongue but won’t come out. What the child says can be vague and difficult to understand (e.g., using unspecific vocabulary, such as “thing” or “what-ya-ma-call-it” to replace words that cannot be remembered). Filler words like “um” may be used to take up time while the child tries to remember a word.


tip of the tongue


  • Learning new vocabulary that the child hears and/or sees (e.g., in books)
  • Understanding questions and following directions that are heard and/or read
  • Recalling numbers in sequence (e.g., telephone numbers and addresses)
  • Understanding and retaining the details of a story’s plot or a classroom lecture
  • Reading and comprehending material
  • Learning words to songs and rhymes
  • Telling left from right, making it hard to read and write since both skills require this directionality.
  • Learning the alphabet
  • Mixing up the order of letters in words while writing
  • Mixing up the order of numbers that are a part of maths calculations
  • Spelling
  • Memorizing the times tables
  • Maths difficulties particularly “word sums”
  • Telling time

Oral and written language impairments are easier to identify because they can be heard or seen. However children who have difficulty processing language present more of a challenge.

These are the children who “fly under the radar” because their language difficulties are more subtle.

The following table adapted from Elizabeth Walcot-Gayda, Ph. D., Montreal, QC shows how these difficulties may manifest.


Examples of some cognitive manifestations of underlying language difficulties

Impairments in processes related to:





Language Processing

Difficulties in processing sarcasm or understanding when someone is joking Difficulty taking another’s perspective Difficulties in understanding: long or complex sentence structure; and with figures of speech Difficulties with: retrieving vocabulary words; orally presented task demands Difficulties with new vocabulary and responses to teacher-directed questions

Phonological processing

Sounds in words (e.g. bat/bag) are confused; poor sound sequencing in words; limited automaticity in decoding Difficulty with comprehension of content caused by lack of fluency in decoding Difficulty retaining sound/symbol correspondence Difficulty extracting essential concepts due to focus on decoding

Processing speed

Poor social interactions; does not keep up with fast-paced lessons Few connections between isolated bits of information in texts Slow linking of new with previously learned information Less material covered or takes extra time and much effort to cover material


Few strategies when trying to remember content or concepts Difficulty writing since spelling may not be automatic Difficulty retrieving previously learned information Forgets spelling words after test; difficulty recalling significant events in history; any new learning is difficult


Difficulty knowing when to pay attention Poor reading of social situations; impulsive Poor concentration when putting ideas together Little effort expended for remembering Work may be disorganized; goes off on tangents,

Executive functions (planning or decision making)

Poor recognition of value of planning; impulsive Difficulty problem solving and understanding consequences of decisions Difficulty in linking new with previously integrated knowledge; Few strategies Difficulties in higher levels of learning, but has isolated pieces of knowledge


Most (but not all) children with underlying language disabilities DO NOT simply outgrow their problems.

It is not worth the “wait and see” approach only to find out that a small problem has become a bigger one that affects learning, literacy, social-emotional development and eventual vocational adjustment.

Memory Zoo – App Review

Memory Zoo – App Review

The influx of Educational Apps makes it very difficult to decide which apps are worthwhile and which are not.

Memory Zoo is an Auditory Memory app that is compatable with  iPod & iPad.


My rubric is based on

Thank you Deb for all your hard work and for sharing!


App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score 20

Speech/Language/Education Apps




App is easy to use & does not crash  1
Content is appropriate  1
No in app purchases required for use  1
Help/tutorial Available  0
App does not contain ads  1
App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps  1


App can be customized for different users  1
App can be used for single user or groups  1
In app data collection is available  1
Content/data can easily be exported  0
User data is saved from session to session  0
App provides useful feedback for user to allow for improved performance  1


Design graphics/sounds are appealing  1
App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user  1


App is designed to target speech/language skills/auditory processing  1
App is easily adapted to target speech/language skills  1
App encourages critical thinking and higher level language  1
App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist  1
Skill reinforced is connected to targeted skill or concept  1
App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups  1


Star Rating

5 stars     17 – 20 points

4 stars       13 – 16 points

3 stars        9 – 12 points

2 stars          5 – 8 points

1 star            0 – 4 points


           App Review: Memory Zoo
          App Name:     Memory Zoo
          Price:                Free


Memory Zoo is fun memory challenge that can be customized to suit all ages.  The app comprises of three games in one which can be used to target memory in different ways. Although it is relies primarily on visual memory there is an auditory component too.




In this game, you are shown a series of animals on the screen. You have to remember the location of ALL the animals to advance to the next screen.  It starts off simply but every time you get something correct an additional item is added.


Similar to the animal hunt game; you are shown a group of animals. However, this time, instead of remembering the location of all animals, you just have to be able to recall the location of a specific animal.  This can be done by listening to an auditory cue, a visual written cue or both a visual and auditory cue.


This is an animal version of the classic memory card “pairs” game.


Game is easy to use and intuitive.

The settings allow you to adjust the difficulty levels and it can be used for children from about 4 ½ years old right through primary school. In fact, I really enjoyed playing with this app too.

Settings can be changed: This includes the reveal time of the target stimulus and board size.

Skill settings can also be adjusted to have audio or visual, or both cues.

The game can be paused to allow for discussion between turns. Memory strategies can be discussed and the child can be encouraged to try and use them.

App can be used with up to four players in a group.

There is both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The children really want to try “one more time” to improve on their own score and they really want their name on the leader board for all to see.



The app does not allow for data storage and transfer from session to session (unless you appear on the leader board).

Settings cannot be adjusted during the game. This would allow the facilitator to mediate the game more appropriately for the child.

Although the app is intuitive, there is no help/tutorial and it took me a while to figure out what the hearts and the torches were for. The “torches” give you another look at the sequences and if you find a “heart” you get an extra life.

Some of the animals are not familiar to the South African population.

A bigger variety of animals would allow for further vocabulary development.



Based on my app rating system, I gave Memory Zoo

17/20 points and

5/5   stars.

Well worth it!