Language is defined as “a socially shared code or conventional system for representing concepts through the use of arbitrary symbols and rule-governed combinations of those symbols” (Owens, 2008, p. 4).
Speech involves the actual mechanics or motor act of verbal expression. Thus, whereas speech includes spoken utterances to convey meaning, language indicates a person’s knowledge of the linguistic concepts on which speech is based. Moreover, language comprises receptive skills (understanding) and expressive skills (use) and includes both written and oral forms.
Terms such as specific language impairment, language delay, and language disorder generally are used with students who are having difficulty learning language in the absence of any intellectual, sensory, or emotional problems.
The impairment or deviant development of comprehension and/or use of a spoken, written, and/or other symbol system. The disorder may involve (1) the form of language (phonologic, morphologic, and syntactic systems), (2) the content of language (semantic system), and/or (3) the function of language in communication (pragmatic system) in any combination.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (1992, p. 949)
Often appear to lack the metacognitive strategies necessary to perform complex academic tasks
Teacher is faced with the challenge of designing interventions to assist students in overcoming or compensating for their language disabilities so that they can meet the increased demands of secondary school.
Intervention may change from a content-oriented approach to a functional approach in which the student is taught strategies to deal with everyday situations.
Problems in comprehension of auditory language also are persistent in adolescents and result in short-term memory problems and a decrease in the understanding of linguistic relationships (Riedlinger-Ryan & Shewan, 1984).
Because adolescents frequently are aware of their difficulties, behaviors such as aggression, frustration, lack of motivation, withdrawal, and inattention may arise (Hazel & Schumaker, 1988; Seidenberg, 1988; Wiig & Semel, 1984).
Some students with limited English proficiency or nonstandard dialects are misdiagnosed as having learning or language impairments because of their difficulty on culturally biased standardized tests (Payne & Taylor, 2006).
To determine if a student’s problems are due to language difficulties, a learning disability, or lack of exposure to effective instruction, Salend (2008) suggests that the following factors should be considered in assessing second-language learners:
The language specialist should be aware of young students with language disorders who are dismissed from language services, because academic problems may resurface later due to a breakdown in the language system and increased curriculum demands.
Language screenings should consist of more than one test and be sensitive to subtle forms of language disorders.
The delivery of instruction in learning strategies should be language sensitive.
The curriculum in language intervention should be relevant to the general curriculum, respond to setting demands, reflect areas of academic concern, integrate spoken and written language systems, and focus on generalization.