Chilhood disorders and Dialogic Reading

Numerous studies, especially since the early 2000s, have shown that Dialogic Reading is a valid method for parents and teachers to tackle numerous childhood disorders, in support of the work of specialists.

Dialogic Reading appears particularly useful in support of Communication Disorders, all those disorders that cause difficulties in expression and in understanding of the verbal and non-verbal language: stuttering, dyslalia, speech disorder, Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. These and many others are disorders that often include babbling, being repetitive, speaking slowly or, conversely, too quickly, omitting words or sounds, not understanding the meaning of gestures. Children and adults with Communication Disorders typically use a very limited number of words and struggle to learn new ones, get verbs wrong, and make lexical and grammatical errors.

Separation anxiety: can occur when a child or young person is forced to separate from people or places they love. We speak of a Disorder when anxiety and the resulting uneasiness accompany the child for a period of over a month. Those affected by Separation Anxiety show strong nostalgia, are filled with fears and do not want to stay alone. Very young children, in order not to sleep alone, can crawl to their parents’ bed and maybe fall asleep on the floor. Generally, these children become very dependent on their parents and often complain of physical pain, nausea, stomach pain or headache for attention. Those suffering from Separation Anxiety Disorder show different fears depending on their age: the child does not want to go to school and tries to avoid activities outside the home, he or she may be afraid of the dark, of monsters and ghosts, have fear of animals. As an adult he or she may be afraid that bad things will happen to himself or herself and to others, including having fear of traveling by plane or by car. Common symptoms include sadness and melancholy, recurring nightmares, fear of being with others, severe school and work difficulties, physical pains such as headaches or stomach pains, nausea, palpitations and a feeling of dizziness. Separation Anxiety should not be underestimated but dealt with immediately and adequately.

Stuttering: Stuttering is a disorder of speech production that alters its cadence and normal flow. The stutterer tends to prolong the sound of syllables or other sounds with repetitions and lengthening (eg. “I-aa-aa-m go-ooo-d”), or to interrupt them, pause in the middle of words or avoid difficult words, using other words. Body movements also often accompany the stutterer, such as clenching fists, contracting the face, jerking the head, or other tics.
Typically the disorder occurs in school and preschool age and can cause discomfort in relationships with others, shame, shyness. These difficulties can in turn cause psychological distress and social distancing.

Dyslalia: it is an Expressive Language Disorder and occurs when the expressive development of language is much lower than average and the ability to speak and understand is impaired. It concerns both non-verbal skills (understanding the meaning of certain gestures, such as waving “no” with the finger), and the ability to understand the meaning of words and sentences, so it can cause problems in school, work life and social activities. The display of this disorder can vary depending on its severity and age. Generally speaking, yo notice limited vocabulary, disconnected or interrupted sentences, repetitive errors, unusual word order. Difficulty learning new words or verbal forms is common: for children – for example – it can be very difficult to dictate or follow dictation, take a question or pronounce whole sentences without “stammering”. The disorder can be acquired due to medical problems or neurological damage – after a period of normal functioning – or may develop from impairments of other nature, not caused by neurological problems.

Speech Disorder: prevents the child from articulating and pronouncing the sounds of single letters or entire words correctly. His or her way of speaking in severe cases is incomprehensible and can compromise learning and social life. It often shows up with the omission of letters (for example, final consonants), with their replacement (for example, use of the sound of a letter instead of the sound of another letter. Also syllables are often poorly articulated.

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder: this disorder manifests itself with a severe difficulty in expressing oneself and in understanding both verbal and gestural language. Those suffering from this disorder, due to hearing difficulties, may seem confused or inattentive, may not answer the questions that are asked or answer incorrectly and inappropriately.
For example, children may not perform the tasks that their parents or teachers assign to them. The manifestations, however, vary according to the severity of the disorder, which can be of an “acquired” or “developmental” type.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders – or DPD – refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of socialization and communication skills. Parents may note symptoms as early as infancy, although the typical age of onset is before 3 years of age. This disorder indicates that the different areas of development and normal functions of a person are severely impaired, with obvious effects in behavior, in the development of language and reasoning, in relationships with others.
Pervasive Developmental Disorders arise from the first years of a child’s life. Among these, Dialogic Reading can in particular be of help in cases of Autism (see here the link to the page dedicated to Autism) and Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder of the autism spectrum, characterized by problems in social behavior. It shows up with difficulties in communicating and interacting with others, with the marked reduction of interests and activities, with the repetition of stereotyped behaviors. Unlike the person with Autism, those with Asperger’s Syndrome do not have language delays or difficulties. The manifestations of the disorder are diverse: those who fail to understand social rules and conventions live in isolation and are at risk of depression, while other people are able to develop some autonomy and also take on satisfying job roles.

Stereotypical Movement Disorder: the repetition of identical movements without a specific purpose to the point of causing damage to oneself. Stereotypical movements can be scratches, bruises, up to severe injuries and trauma. In fact, those affected tend to bite, pinch, hit their heads, hands or fingers, but they can also hit themselves with objects. These episodes must occur often and for over a month to consider it a disorder.

Selective or Elective Mutism: it is an anxiety disorder characterized by the inability to speak with strangers and only in some contexts. Children who suffer from this disorder at home speak well, often even a lot, especially with their parents, but are unable to communicate outside their family environment. At school they cannot talk to other children and to make themselves understood they just make gestures or nods with their heads. They can indicate what they want with their hands or by writing notes. It should not be confused with the normal shyness which can induce more or less prolonged forms of silence.

All these disorders can greatly benefit, along with professional advice and support, from Dialogic Reading.