A Checklist for Language Based Reading Difficulties

Learning to read is such a monumental milestone for children in early elementary school, but it can also be a source of stress for concerned parents or for children who don’t seem to “pick it up” as easily as others. Since reading is a fundamental skill which only increases in importance as students move on to later grades in school, early identification of at-risk readers is key to ensuring academic success for all children.

Listed below is a checklist which can be used to identify children (in kindergarten – first grade) who may benefit from further evaluation by a speech-language pathologist:

Speech sound awareness:Child with reading difficulties

  • Does not understand or enjoy rhymes (may have difficulty clapping hands/tapping feet in rhythm to songs or rhymes)
  • Does not recognize words with the same beginning sound
  • Has difficulty counting syllables in spoken words
  • Difficulty learning sound-letter correspondences ( the letter ‘b’ says ‘buh’)

Written language awareness:

  • Does not orient book properly while looking through books
  • Cannot identify words and letters in picture books

Letter name knowledge:

  • Cannot recite the alphabet
  • Cannot identify printed letters as they are named or name letters when asked.

Word retrieval:

  • Has difficulty finding a specific word in conversation, uses non-specific words (thing, stuff) or substitutes a related term
  • Poor memory for classmates names
  • Halting speech- pauses and filler words used (“um” or “you know”)

Speech production/perception:

  • Difficulty saying common words with difficult sound patterns (i.e. cinnamon, specific, library)
  • Mishears and then mispronounces words/names
  • Frequent slips of the tongue (says “brue blush” for “blue brush”)

Comprehension:

  • Only responds to part of a multi-step direction or instruction or requests multiple repetitions for instructions
  • Difficulty understanding spatial terms (in front, behind etc.)
  • Difficulty understanding stories

Expressive language:

  • Uses short sentences with a small vocabulary, little variety
  • Difficulty giving directions or explanations, little detail provided
  • Disorganized story-telling or event recall
  • Grammar errors (“he goed to the store”)

Literacy motivation:

  • Does not enjoy classroom story-time (wanders, does not pay attention when teacher reads stories)
  • Shows little interest in literacy activities (looking at books, writing)

If your child or a child you work with can be described by many of the items on this checklist, further evaluation of their language skills is warranted to ensure appropriate intervention is provided and continued literacy learning is encouraged. There are many professionals (teachers, reading specialists, and speech-language pathologists) who are trained to assist children in acquiring early literacy skills or supporting children who exhibit difficulty in this area. However, areas of expertise vary and depending on the needs of your child, the appropriate professional to help can be identified.

This checklist is modified from H. Catts’s 2002 publication in Languge, speech, and Hearing Services in Schools as presented in Rhea Paul’s Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence.

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