Home » Identifying Literacy Difficulties versus Disabilities | John Jezzini

Identifying Literacy Difficulties versus Disabilities | John Jezzini

by Nathan Zachary
John Jezzini

Many children have reading difficulties. According to one estimate, around 10 million children struggle with reading. The exciting news is that 90 to 95 percent of children who struggle with reading can overcome their challenges if they receive the right care at a young age.

Many students have trouble with fluency, comprehension, and oral reading. But how can we distinguish between a challenge and a disability, and what can be done to support kids who encounter difficulties in these many ways? Here is a detailed explanation by John Jezzini of the variations and what each means.

Knowing your child may have a learning problem isn’t easy. Nobody enjoys seeing their kid go through hardship. What this means for your kid’s future is up for debate, and you may be concerned about how they’ll do in class. Maybe you’re worried that if you bring up your child’s learning difficulties at school, they will be labeled “slow” or put in a less rigorous class.

However, it is crucial to remember that most children with learning impairments are just as intelligent as any other child. They require lessons designed specifically for how they take in information. Understanding learning disabilities and your child’s specific learning challenges can help pave the path to academic and social success.

Literacy Difficulties

People of every age and background can struggle with their literacy skills. The person’s literacy challenges may (or may not) emerge as a result of another condition (such as aphasia following a stroke) (such as aphasia after a stroke). Although reading issues are frequently referred to using the word ”dyslexia,” this disorder is usually only identified when there is a specific incapacity or pronounced difficulty in learning to read and spell. Dyslexia can mean different things to different people in different fields. Commonly seen diagnoses include (Central) Auditory Processing Disorders (C/APD), Specific Language Impairment (SLI), and Specific Learning Disabilities (SpLD).

Comparison of Learning Difficulties and Disabilities Related to Literacy

Some students may have reading challenges, although this does not always indicate a learning disability. A student may need supplementary instruction, remediation, or additional time to acquire reading proficiency. But, with sufficient support, the learner can catch up and finally gain mastery.

Yet, some students are given an official diagnosis of a learning disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees these students access to specialized programs for their education (IDEA). “An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is established to explain the educational goals and supports that the student requires to be successful,” said John Jezzini. An IEP might include reading-related interventions for pupils who have a learning disability and are having trouble keeping up with their reading assignments. As there is currently no “treatment” for certain disabilities, students with certain conditions will need to engage with disability support services on an ongoing basis throughout their educational career.

The student’s struggles are not due to:

  • difficulty learning English as a second language, a physical impairment, a harsh living situation or cultural background
  • difficulty seeing or hearing clearly
  • lack of mental acuity (though severe forms of LBLD can affect performance on assessments of cognitive function)

Experts in the field of literacy, like John Jezzini, classify reading difficulties as either a phonological deficit (difficulty decoding speech sounds), a processing speed/orthographic processing deficit (difficulty decoding letters and words), or a comprehension deficit (understanding what is read).

What Factors Might Influence a Person’s Capacity for Literacy Development?

When a child (or adult) has trouble reading, it is crucial to identify the reason/s as early as possible, as the sort of aid needed can differ dramatically.

Evidence suggests that early intervention is crucial.

For example, the kind of aid a child needs to overcome challenges with making meaning of the sounds made by letters or letter combinations is significantly different than that needed by a child with “visual” difficulty reading.

Common impairments that interfere with literacy development include:

  • Dyslexia
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Processing problems
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Visual impairment

You’ll find additional information on each of these below, but keep in mind that they’re just a few of the many potential causes of a child’s reading or learning difficulties. Professional expertise/advice is vital in detecting an issue.

  • Dyslexia

New evidence points to a single gene as the root of dyslexia. Learning a new language can be extremely challenging for people with even mild brain structure differences.

Decoding a word or sentence is more difficult since the brain has a harder time “translating” the letters on the page into the sounds of the words. From a very early age, a dyslexic child may have problems learning to hear speech and make themselves understood and may have trouble retaining words and sequencing words or letters.

Therefore, learning to read through conventional means can be exceedingly challenging; nevertheless, other methods are more effective. For example, children with dyslexia need direct education on the link between letters and sounds.

Dyslexia can be difficult to recognize as many of its features are ones most youngsters go through as a natural part of growing up. When these phases persist longer than normal, and the child seems “stuck” in challenging stages, there may be a sign of dyslexia.

  • Finding Out If Someone has Dyslexia

When faced with a challenging activity (especially one that requires reading, writing, or spelling), someone with dyslexia may avoid it altogether, substitute guessing for reading, prop up their head while writing, and remember one word one day and forget the next.

They can often be quite talented in other areas and may have a vocabulary that exceeds their reading ability. A child with dyslexia may seem unmotivated or uninterested at first.

The brain of an individual with dyslexia has to work harder to connect the dots between what they experience in the external world, what they think about those experiences, and how to put those thoughts into words.

  • Problems Communicating

Difficulty with verbal interaction, such as listening, speaking, or producing sounds, falls under this umbrella phrase.

When a youngster has trouble with language, they may stutter, use terms that adults would consider “babyish,” or have trouble comprehending what is being spoken or read.

Communicative difficulties are common among people who have learning challenges like dyslexia.

  • Issues in Processing

This is a word used to describe when there is an interruption or distortion in the sensory data that is being processed by the brain. This could include visual, hearing, and motor impairments.

Although they are categorized as learning impairments, these issues overlap with speech and language disorders and particular learning disabilities like dyslexia. Because of the possibility of letter reversal, a youngster reading on their own may easily become lost or need to remember even the most basic of directions.


Parents are typically the first to notice something is off with their child’s progress. Yet, John Jezzini believes they typically think the kid will get it eventually, that they need more time, or that they are just not as “intelligent” as other kids.

Their insights might sometimes point to a genuine issue, such as a learning disability or a personality quirk hindering the child’s reading skills. This is when a different kind of reading instruction comes in handy.

For example, many persons labeled as dyslexic are actually of normal or above-average intelligence. They could become successful readers with the correct guidance and encouragement. Trust your gut and insist on getting your child the expert aid and extra support they need.

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