Dyslexia affects an individual’s proficiency in reading and spelling, but does it also affect speech?
In this article, we will provide a thorough understanding of dyslexia, emphasising its potential effects on speech and language.
The Complex Nature Of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is a multifaceted language-based learning difficulty.
It primarily impairs a person’s ability to process phonological information, which is crucial for correlating sounds with corresponding letters and symbols in reading.
Dyslexia’s impact, however, extends beyond reading and writing, potentially affecting various aspects of language and speech, albeit in varying degrees across individuals.
Does Dyslexia Affect Speech?
In short, yes, dyslexia can affect speech, but it’s not quite as straightforward as a simple ‘yes’ answer.
The relationship between dyslexia and speech is complex and variable.
We will break this down more in the next section.
How Does Dyslexia Affect Speech?
While some individuals with dyslexia may exhibit speech difficulties, such as issues with articulation or delayed speech development, these are not universally present.
For many, speech might appear relatively unaffected. However, others could continue to face challenges, particularly with tasks involving rapid language processing, like naming pictures quickly or repeating long sequences of words.
Phonological Awareness And Speech Challenges
Dyslexia is closely linked to phonological awareness – the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds in speech.
This skill is foundational for reading development. Children with dyslexia often struggle with phonological awareness, manifesting as difficulties pronouncing words, distinguishing similar-sounding words, or breaking words into their constituent sounds.
Early Language Development And Dyslexia
Early language development in children with dyslexia can offer critical insights into their later reading and speech abilities.
Many children with dyslexia may have experienced early language delays, including late onset of speech, difficulties in vocabulary acquisition, or challenges in constructing sentences.
These early signs can be precursors to the broader language difficulties associated with dyslexia, though not all individuals with early language delays develop dyslexia.
Stuttering Or Speech Disfluency
Stuttering or speech disfluency is another aspect of speech that can be associated with dyslexia, although it’s not a universal sign.
Dyslexia, Auditory Processing, And Speech Comprehension
Auditory processing plays a significant role in dyslexia.
Some individuals with this condition may find it challenging to process and interpret the sounds of speech efficiently.
This difficulty is not indicative of a hearing problem but a unique way of processing auditory information.
Such challenges can impact the understanding of spoken language and the development of literacy skills.
What Words Do Dyslexic People Struggle To Say?
Now we know a little more about the relationship between speech and dyslexia, let’s take a peek at some specific examples and how these difficulties can be grouped:
- Pronouncing Long or Complex Words: People with dyslexia may find it challenging to pronounce long or complex words correctly. This difficulty often stems from the inability to break down the word into its phonemic components and blend them back together in the correct sequence.
- Distinguishing Similar Sounding Words: Individuals with dyslexia might struggle to differentiate between similar words. For instance, they may confuse words like “cat” and “cap” or “three” and “free.”
- Word Retrieval Issues: People with dyslexia can experience what’s known as ‘word retrieval difficulties’ or ‘word finding difficulties.’ This is when they know and understand the word they want to use but have trouble retrieving it and saying it in the moment. This can lead to pauses in speech or using fillers like “um” more frequently.
- Mispronunciations Due to Phonemic Awareness Issues: Since phonemic awareness (the understanding of how phonemes, or speech sounds, form words) can be a challenge, individuals with dyslexia might mispronounce words, especially those that are phonetically irregular or contain silent letters – we’ve included some more information on this below.
- Sequencing Sounds within Words: Dyslexia can make it difficult to sequence sounds correctly within words. This can result in mispronunciations or jumbling sounds (for example, saying “aminal” instead of “animal”).
Common Mispronunciations Due To Phonemic Awareness
To elaborate on one of our points above and to ensure you know what to look out for, we’ve compiled some examples of where common mispronunciations can occur:
- Words with Silent Letters: Words that contain silent letters can be particularly challenging. For example: “Knife” might be pronounced as “ka-nife” instead of the correct “nyfe.”
- Words with Complex Consonant Clusters: Words with several consonants clustered together might be simplified in pronunciation. For instance: “Strength” might be pronounced as “strenth,” omitting the “g” sound or “twelfth” could be pronounced as “twelf,” dropping the “th” sound.
- Words with Irregular Spellings: The English language has many words where the spelling does not directly correlate with the pronunciation. Such words might be mispronounced. For example, “Colonel” might be pronounced as it is spelt, like “col-on-el,” instead of the correct “kernel.” “Island” could be pronounced as “is-land” instead of “ī-land.”
- Multisyllabic Words: Longer words with multiple syllables can also pose a challenge. For instance: “Particularly” might be pronounced as “par-tic-u-lar-ly” instead of “par-tik-yə-lər-ly.” “Library” could be pronounced as “li-berry” instead of “ly-brer-y.”
- Words with Phonetically Irregular Vowels: Vowel sounds in English can be tricky, as they often do not correspond directly to their written form. This can result in mispronunciations like: “Debt” might be pronounced with the “b” sound, as “de-bt” instead of “det” and “receipt” might be pronounced as “re-ceipt” instead of “re-seet.”
It’s important to recognise that, as we mentioned earlier, these speech difficulties are not universal among all dyslexic individuals, and many people with dyslexia don’t experience significant speech problems.
Also, dyslexia manifests differently in each person, so the extent and nature of speech difficulties can vary widely.
Moreover, these speech-related challenges are more noticeable and prevalent during early childhood.
Many children with dyslexia improve their speech skills considerably as they receive appropriate support and intervention, especially those focused on phonological awareness and language development.
Distinguishing Dyslexia From Other Speech And Language Disorders
It is important to differentiate dyslexia from other speech and language disorders, as they are distinct conditions with specific characteristics and challenges.
While dyslexia primarily affects reading and writing, speech and language disorders can include many difficulties, such as articulation problems, language comprehension difficulties, or voice disorders.
An accurate diagnosis is essential for providing appropriate support and intervention. You can learn more about arranging an assessment here.
Further reading: How To Help A Dyslexic Child With Reading
Our Final Word
Dyslexia is a complex condition with implications that can extend to speech and language.
The extent and nature of these implications vary greatly among individuals.
If you believe you or your child may have dyslexia, you can book an assessment with us here to receive an official diagnosis.
Call us on 01633 439 220 for more information or contact us here.