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language processing disorder

Language Processing Disorder

What is LPD, what are the symptoms, can you treat it?

Language processing disorder might be the most important cognitive skill delay you have never heard of. It’s a processing difficulty that undermines listening comprehension, language, reading and thinking – we think in our native language.

While parents tend to be proactive with expressive language (delayed speech), receptive language delays (listening) caused by language processing disorders are often overlooked. However listening comprehension delays can end up being more critical to a child’s learning success as it affects attentiveness in class, phonemic awareness for reading and social interaction.

Language processing disorder symptoms can be reduced – language processing is a cognitive skill that improves with cognitive skills training.

What is Language Processing Disorder?

While central auditory processing disorder (APD) describes difficulty identifying and retaining sounds after the ears have “heard” them, language processing disorder is narrower. It’s difficulty processing language. A person who struggles to interpret sounds — processing sound where there is background noise or has difficulty sequencing sounds, for instance — will almost definitely have difficulty processing language.

Language processing disorder does not describe a conductive hearing loss (hard of hearing). In fact, most children with LPD have normal peripheral hearing.

It is more about processing — what you do with the language once you hear it. Individuals with LPD have difficulty attaching meaning to words, sentences and stories. That’s because the act of listening takes so much effort, sometimes described as like listening through water.

And therefore, because language is not clearly received, language mastery is slowed. The learning of vocabulary is slowed, the recognition of grammar, spelling and language syntax patterns is slowed, and the ability to take in increasingly complex information in class is held back.

Better to be an Auditory Learner

Babies hear language around them and naturally try to learn that language. With normal auditory development, they rely on listening to learn, i.e., they are naturally auditory learners. The reason a children have visual or kinesthetic learning styles is that listening skills are not functioning properly – those learning styles are not the brain’s first choice.

Auditory learning is every bit as important in middle school and higher. By middle school, most children can listen accurately.  Learning however requires a higher level of language processing. Learners must be able to process and think critically while listening.  Language processing disorder adds effort to listening, detracting from thinking.

Finally, we think in language. It’s the “operating system” of the brain. Compromised language development impacts our ability to think quickly. In this way, language processing disorder has a profound impact of a person’s life.  Everyone should be auditory learners if at all possible.

Symptoms Of Language Processing Disorders

The most common language processing disorder symptoms are:

Difficulty Following Directions
If your child is processing language at a slower rate than a teacher or parent is talking, he will either miss information or just tune out.  This applies to following directions at home and listening in class.

Trouble Rhyming At An Early Age
Rhyming displays language dexterity. If your child had difficulty with rhyming at 3-4 years of age, this is an sign that speech and language processing skills may not be developing normally. Rhyming is the most reliable predictor of future reading skills.  Children who cannot rhyme early on are at-risk readers.

Vocabulary, Pronunciation and Grammar Concerns
Children with language processing disorder tend to have under-developed vocabularies and poor grammar skills compared to their peers. This is because much of what they hear sounds muddy or unclear. Naturally, they only use words they are sure they heard correctly, limiting their spoken vocabulary. In addition, because they have to concentrate hard on listening, they have no capacity to observe and learn conventions such as grammar and syntax.

Attention Deficits
A child who has difficulty listening in class will lose focus due to exhaustion and/or lack of interest. While this is often diagnosed as ADD or ADHD resulting in medication, very often poor focus is entirely due to language processing disorder.

Inconsistent Performance
Children with language processing difficulties often struggle in noisy environments such as classrooms. This sometimes results in up and down performance that is frustrating for parents and children.

Reading Difficulty
Reading requires accurate phonemic awareness, the ability to hear the sounds inside words. This is a challenge for children with language processing disorder. Most children with language processing disorder symptoms develop reading problems or are diagnosed with developmental dyslexia.

Helping Children With Language Processing Disorder

While speech and language therapy generally helps phonological and expressive language difficulties (speech), there is less evidence to support its effectiveness in helping receptive language difficulties.

To help receptive language, you need to exercise listening skills, not speech.  Gemm Learning provides Fast ForWord language and reading software at home with personalized teacher support to help children 5 years and older.

As a side note, accommodations that help a child with a language processing delay are also worthwhile.  This is includes everything from being mindful of minimizing background noise for your child and getting your child a spot at the front of the class to avoiding instruction in a foreign language – at least until English is mastered!

For Language Difficulties

Our program starts by tackling cognitive listening skills.  This includes auditory processing, working memory, listening accuracy, listening comprehension, attention, sequencing.  These are the foundational skills for receptive and expressive language.

For At Risk Readers

Our program has exercises that reduce the symptoms of language processing disorder, helping students build phonological awareness for decoding and reading comprehension.
Auditory processing and reading problems

To find out if your child is a candidate for our program, call one of our specialists for a free consult or send us a note here.


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