Weak Language Ability May be the Culprit to Bad Behavior


Language allows us to communicate our needs, voice concerns and suggest ways of getting through obstacles. There is an interesting parallel concerning students with language problems because it has been shown to have coexisting social-behavioral difficulty. The connection happens in large part because the child has to resort to inappropriate means for dealing with disagreements.

As an example, a student may grab something from the desk of another child instead of asking for it or suggesting taking turns. This may become an inflammatory situation in which the student may use physical aggression because he/she doesn’t have the verbal tools to resolve a conflict.  Language serves the role of mediating our thinking by talking through a difficult situation, or thinking through it verbally. This naturally slows an escalating situation down and helps to avoid negative impulse behavior. In a nutshell, language helps to strengthen the brakes of attention production control. So, for parents and teachers, consider the possibility that weak language may be the cause of inappropriate behavior.


Students struggling with limited (whether receptive or expressive) language need a combination of strategy types. “On the receptive side, provide the student with information that is conveyed with enough visual support to help the student understand it. This might mean providing more diagrams, models, videos or demonstrations than would not normally be necessary.” ‘How Can My Kid Succeed in School: What Parents and Teachers Can Do to Conquer Learning Problems’ Craig Pohlman, Ph.D. You can also use more visual supports as I do in my classroom such as modeling how to glean info from posters, how to use semantic maps and use graphic organizers. These examples are displayed on the classroom walls.

On the expressive side, it is suggested to, “give students opportunities to utilize their memories and think with fewer demands on language. You can have the student build a Web site or slideshows with a lot of images and effects. Lastly, because the use of interventions and accommodations depends so much on objectives, clarifying objectives is imperative,” says Craig Pohlman, Ph.D.

Because many students with limited language are not given sufficient time for responses, they should not be under time constraints whenever possible. When things are slowed down, comprehension and expressing thoughts come easier. In a classroom situation or even at home, it is suggested that you provide the student with advance warning which allows the child to ponder a question. This strategy alone helps with receptive language. Advance warnings can also help the child with long-term memory access issues due to the fact that they can have more time to retrieve information that is stored.

Tags: Receptive and Expressive Language, Learning Difficulties, Craig Pohlman, Ph.D., Comprehension, Strategy, Semantic Maps


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