Child Reading Disorders

Child Reading DisordersAs an Herndon speech therapist, I am often asked to explain what I do on a daily basis.  Typically, I begin by explaining that in the past speech therapists were primarily involved in correcting speech problems such as stuttering and speech sound errors.  I then explain that speech therapy has evolved into a profession that currently targets speaking and listening skills, accent modification, social communication abilities, and treatment of child reading disorders.  After providing this explanation, a reaction that I frequently receive is, “Child reading disorders?  Why does a speech-language pathologist work with children on improving their reading skills?”  This is a great question that I would like to address in more detail.

Child Reading Disorders

First, it often comes as a surprise to most people that a child’s later reading and spelling abilities are often related to their early speaking skills.  Children with reading and spelling problems, including dyslexia, have difficulty accessing a specific component of the language system: the phonologic system.  The phonologic system is the functional part of the brain where the sounds of language are put together to form words and words are broken down into their component sounds.  A child that has difficulty accessing the phonologic system is often described as having “phonological processing” difficulties.  Children with “phonological processing” issues often exhibit difficulties with the following skills that may serve as a warning sign to later reading and spelling difficulties including dyslexia:

–  Delay in speaking (Children with reading and spelling concerns may not have begun saying their first words until 15 months or used phrases until their second birthday)

–  Difficulties in pronunciation of words

–  Insensitivity to rhyme (Difficulty reciting nursery rhymes and confusing words that sound alike)

As speech therapists are often the first professionals to notice these potential warning signs in pre-school and elementary aged students, it is critical that they have a solid understanding of the relationship between early language and later developing literacy skills.

Once a deficit in accessing the phonologic system has been identified, it is the responsibility of the speech-language pathologist to work collaboratively with other members of the child’s multi-disciplinary team (e.g., classroom teacher, reading specialist, etc.) to develop and implement a plan to improve the child’s ability to access the sound structure of language.

As an Arlington speech therapist who frequently works with children with literacy concerns including dyslexia, I utilize the Phono-Graphix method of teaching reading and spelling to assist in developing a child’s skills.  At its core, the Phono-Graphix method emphasizes four concepts and three skills that are essential to improving a child’s reading and spelling abilities:


1. Letters are pictures of sounds

2. A sound picture can be made with one or more letters (e.g., ch, oo, se)

3. There is more than one way to show the same sound (We call this variation in the code – e.g., ‘oa,’ ‘ow’ for the sound ‘o’)

4. There is overlap in the code (e.g., the sound picture ‘ow’ represents two sounds – clown vs. snow)

Skills Targeted:

1. Segmenting – The ability to separate the sounds in words

2. Blending – The ability to blend, or connect, sounds into meaningful words

3. Phoneme Manipulation – The ability to move sounds in and out of words

Phono-Graphix differs from traditional phonics programs in the following ways:

–  It is organized around what the child/adult already knows (i.e., speech)

–  The program is not rule-driven, and does not teach letter names, word families, or short/long vowels

–  Phonological awareness (i.e., segmenting, blending, phoneme manipulation) is addressed in every lesson

–  Emphasis is on active discovery by the learner

If your child would benefit from improved reading and spelling skills, consider contacting a Phono-Graphix provider in your area.

More information about Phono-Graphix can be found at the following:

If you are interested in learning more about reading therapy provided by A Step Above Speech Language Pathology, please contact us for more information.  We cater to clients in Northern Virginia, specifically in Herndon, Reston, Arlington, Vienna, Mclean, Annandale, Fairfax, Merrifield, and Washington, D.C.


McGuinness, C. & McGuinness, G. (1998). Reading reflex: The foolproof Phono-Graphix method for teaching your child to read. New York: Fireside

Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level.  New York: Knopf



Child Reading DisordersGeoffrey Greenman, M.A., CCC-SLP is a Northern Virginia speech therapist.  He is the owner of “A Step Above Speech-Language Pathology.” We are an Arlington speech private practice helping to correct child reading and spelling disorders.















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