As a language-based learning disability, dyslexia affects several areas of a child’s cognitive functioning. 

Most people are aware that dyslexia impacts reading and spelling, but are unaware of how it relates to one’s communication skills. 

Whilst dyslexia doesn’t affect one’s oral communication, it does affect language processing and written communication. 

The effects of dyslexia are naturally more visible when it comes to written language. These include making numerous spelling errors when completing essay compositions and open-ended questions, as well as struggling to put ideas and thoughts into written form. 

But dyslexia may affect a child’s speech as well, due to difficulties with language processing. A child with dyslexia may struggle with poor word retrieval. This means that they may know a word but have difficulties remembering how it sounds. 


Dyslexia’s effect on language skills and language acquisition

Children with dyslexia often exhibit a slower acquisition of language skills. This is due to struggles with the phonological component of language, such as: 


  • Phonological awareness: An awareness of the sounds of language. Phonological awareness enables an individual to remember, discriminate and manipulate sounds at the syllable, word, sentence and phoneme (sound) level
  • Phonological production : The pronunciation of phonologically complex and multisyllabic words
  • Phonological memory: Memory of speech sounds in the pronunciations of letter names, parts of a word or whole words

Additionally, dyslexic impacts language recall and word retrieval.  Most people experience instances where they can’t recall the words they wish to use. For those without a language-based disability, this happens occasionally - perhaps due to tiredness or an infrequent usage of that particular word. 

However, children with dyslexia may experience this more frequently, thus affecting their speech.  They may know a word but have trouble saying it as they can’t remember the exact sound combination for that word. This may lead to halted speech as well as shorter utterances, which don’t fully express what they are looking to say. 

It’s important to note that poor word retrieval does not indicate that a child forgot the word or did not learn it - just that access to that word in memory is temporarily interrupted. 

Parents should also bear in mind that stress can further exacerbate a child’s difficulty in finding the right words, especially when they have to speak in front of a big group. Children with dyslexia are better able to find the right words when they are given more time to respond, or pressured to do so in public.  


How to help dyslexic children improve their language & communication skills 

If your child is struggling with language acquisition and you suspect they might have dyslexia, it’s important to seek a formal assessment. 

Such an assessment is usually carried out by private clinics such as Thomson Kids- a centre which supports children with learning difficulties in maximising their learning potential. 

The centre’s experienced psychologist will start by diagnosing your child’s language and learning problems, to determine the right interventions required. Based on inputs from the assessment,  students will be enrolled in suitable learning programmes, with  teaching methods adapted to their specific needs. 

For interventions to be effective,  they must also be of high quality and of sufficient duration. Thomson Kids offers well-developed English and Chinese programmes to help children improve their language skills.

These go beyond teaching students basic reading and decoding skills. The curriculum covers  morphology (the study of words, how they are formed, and their relationship to other words), phonics, grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, spelling and writing skills.

Given how students with dyslexia may face anxiety when trying to communicate (either in written form or when speaking to teachers and peers), Thomson Kids also helps them gradually build up their confidence and acquire essential life skills. Learning is broken down into manageable parts that challenge but do not overwhelm them. Once their confidence and self-esteem has been nurtured, they are better enabled to thrive in school and beyond. 

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