How do Communication Disabilities impact Academic Skills?


Communication skills can impact all areas of academic development including:  reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, memory and recall, grammar and social language skills.


Reading and Writing:


 The most reliable predictor of reading success is a student’s ability to orally segment the sounds they hear in words, blend sounds together to make words, rhyme, and manipulate words orally, a skill known as phonemic or phonological awareness (McGuiness, 1998).  As students learn to manipulate sounds in words verbally, teachers help students learn the spellings associated with those sounds, and this learns to reading decoding skills.  Children who don’t hear all of the sounds in words, or have difficulty with rhyming, blending, breaking down words into sounds, adding or deleting sounds orally will most likely have difficulty with developing reading and spelling skills.  Children with these difficulties may also substitute sounds in words, such as saying “teef” instead of “teeth”, or “vat” for “bat”, and may need be candidates for articulation therapy. 


Vocabulary Skills:


Children who have poor vocabulary skills have much difficulty relating to what is being taught in the classroom.  For example, if a student does not know what a ruler is, they can’t understand when the teacher says measure the length of your desk, they mean to for the student to use a ruler.  It will be difficult for the child to gain new knowledge when vocabulary is poor.  


It will also be difficult for the student will low vocabulary skills to make sense of material they read if they have difficulty with determining what words mean, so this will cause difficulties with reading decoding and comprehension skills.


Students with poor concept vocabulary skills (color, number, location, shapes, spatial, time) will have difficulty following directions in the classroom and participating in classroom activities.


Poor oral vocabulary skills will also impact a student’s ability to use and write with complex sentence structure.  Writing tends to be telegraphic in nature and omits descriptive words, conjunctions, and adverbs. 


Organizational and Memory Skills   


Children who have difficulties with oral language have difficulty remembering information and organizing information (comprehension).    Children have to be able to categorize and sort information in order to be able to remember it for future use.  If children cannot sort items into categories, compare two objects, or describe objects, they will have difficulty with putting information into long-term memory.  They may also have difficulty following directions, sequencing stories, and keeping track of assignments. 


Grammar Usage:


Grammar usage can be effected in several ways by language disorders.  If the student has low vocabulary skills, sentence structure may not be as complex when compared with sentences formed by peers.  When students have poor oral grammar, they often have difficulty being understood by others during activities.   These difficulties will also impact a student’s written work.  Children tend to write the way they speak, after all, written language is merely a representation of the spoken word.


Social Skills


Children can also have difficulty with social language skills or pragmatics.  These skills include initiating conversation, turn taking during conversation, staying on topic during conversation, answering verbally when spoken to, looking at the person you are speaking to, and closing the conversation appropriately.  At school, students who have difficulties in this area will have difficulties participating in classroom discussions, developing friendships with peers, and interacting during many academic and leisure activities.