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Tips for Parents | How to Recognize Comprehension Weakness

Nov 15, 2019

Students with decoding issues, including dyslexia, can be easy to spot. They often miscall words (e.g., breakfast as “basket”); their oral reading is slow and “choppy;” and, spelling is tough to master. It is important to identify these students who struggle, so they can get the help they need.


Unfortunately, there are many students who have a different, separate, learning issue that is rarely identified and, therefore, never addressed. Hidden in plain sight, many students have a learning weakness that prevents them from fully understanding the language they read and hear. For example, a student who doesn’t turn in homework assignments may be perceived as “unmotivated” or “lazy.” But it may just be that he has trouble understanding instructions in class.


A primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating mental images for language. This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts” of information that they read or hear, but not the whole. This weakness often undermines the reading and thinking process. Students with weak language comprehension are commonly saddled with the misconceptions that they are just not trying, or that they are distractible. In fact, they may be trying very hard to memorize everything they have heard or read. And they need help.



Signs of comprehension weakness include:


1. Trouble understanding what they read

Students with weak comprehension have difficulty recalling what they’ve read. They might get parts, or some details, but may have difficulty remembering a book or story as a whole. Homework and schoolwork relying on their understanding of the text will be difficult.  These students may not enjoy reading for pleasure. 


2. Weak problem solving skills

Students with weak comprehension can be prone to poor decision making. Thinking through the implications and consequences of their actions may be challenging. Because they are only processing parts, they may not “see” the big picture.


They also may have difficulty with problem solving methods required in math and science.


3. Writing assignments are “painful” and poorly done

Many students with language comprehension weakness may also have poor writing skills because they lack the imagery for the gestalt (whole). Without the “big picture” idea for a topic, a student will have a hard time constructing a strong paragraph. The ability to generate the main idea, offer supporting details, make inferences, and wrap up with a conclusion that is cohesive and well organized is challenging for this student.


4. Verbal expression is affected

This student may be prone to including irrelevant details or issues when speaking; he or she also may re-tell stories out of sequence. On the other hand, this student may be very quiet and shy. Whether this student talks very little or a lot, the language seems disconnected from the listener.


5. Difficulty following directions

Students with a comprehension issue can become overwhelmed after more than one or two directions (“I’ll meet you at the car. Bring your tennis shoes. . .”). Directions from teachers and parents may appear to go in one ear and out the other, without a connection, and students seem unable to focus on what they are told.


Solutions at Lindamood-Bell

The imagery-language connection can be developed as a foundation for comprehension and thinking. Students can make years of academic growth in just a few weeks and go back to school ready to learn.


Get started for free with a Complimentary Diagnostic Screening for Learning. This free screening takes 20-30 minutes, measures your student’s reading and comprehension skills–and includes a consultation with our Center Director. The information you’ll receive can help answer questions about school performance, behavior, frustrations, homework issues, and expectations.


Get started by contacting your local learning center to discuss how we can help make this school year easier! 

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