When children have problems acquiring language or have language delays, they are at high risk for difficulty in learning to read and write, and to listen and speak. Problems in language can occur in comprehension and expression, or even in the components of language at the sound, syllable, single word, sentence, and conversational levels. Language also includes subsystems such as phonology (the study of the patterns of sounds in a language), morphology (study of the forms of words), semantics (meanings of words and phrases), syntax (rules in a language that dictate how words from different parts of speech are put together to convey thought), and pragmatics (use of words and sentences). These subsystems of language are critical for reading comprehension and written expression. For example, a child who has poorly developed phonological awareness (a child’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of his/her oral language) will have more difficulty reading than a child with well-developed phonological awareness. Before children are even ready to read, write, or spell, they develop phonological awareness. Phonological Awareness skills help them understand how words contain sounds and how these sounds are represented by letters. These critical skills needed for reading are usually impaired in children with speech disorders, especially those children with phonological disorders.
Children who have problems with pronouncing or even understanding speech sounds, have difficulty with reading and writing those same sounds, often leading to problems with decoding and sounding out words. To improve literacy (the ability to read and write) for these children, the underlying speech and language problems must be improved as well. Deficits in speech and language can impact the ability to achieve required literacy skills needed for academic success. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA 2001) recognized reading as a language based skill, stating that oral language provides the foundation for literacy (ASHA, 2001). “Spoken language provides the foundation for the development of reading and writing; spoken and written language have a reciprocal relationship, such that each builds on the other to result in general language competence, starting early and continuing through childhood into adulthood; children with spoken language problems frequently have difficulty learning to read and write, and children with reading and writing problems frequently have difficulty with spoken language; instruction in spoken language can result in growth in written language; and instruction in written language can result in growth in spoken language”(ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Reading and Written Language Disorders position statement 2001).