Language Processing Disorder

Imagine raising your hand to ask what you thought was a serious question - and hearing laughter instead of a response.

Imagine raising your hand to ask what you believed to be a perfectly reasonable question - and hearing laughter instead of a response.

Wilson Meyer* was considered a “class clown.”  He seemed always to be asking perfectly obvious questions, much to his peers’ amusement.  Wilson’s literature teacher instructed the class to, “Turn to the page opposite of 13,” and Wilson raised his hand: “Is that 31?”  The class shuddered with laughter – and Wilson laughed, too, although he wasn’t quite sure what was so funny. The rest of the class had turned their workbooks to page 14.

Wilson had a very difficult time following directions, both at home and school.  When Wilson’s mother said, “Go get ready for dinner,” she was often dismayed and confused to find him inactive.  On worksheets and tests, Wilson’s teachers found that he might follow one direction from a series of directions, but rarely or never completed each direction in the series. Strings of oral directions seemed to be lost in translation.  If a series of directions read, “Cross out the fraction that isn’t equivalent to the others and circle the fraction that is in simplest form,” Wilson might cross out all of the inequivalent fractions but fail to circle any of the simplified fractions; he would simply miss that direction entirely.  On one test about Louis Lowry’s Number the Stars, Wilson referred consistently to “War War Two,” his brain not recognizing the subtle differences between the words “world” and “war.”  Wilson heard “War War Two” when his teacher talked about World War Two, so Wilson wrote “War War Two” without ever realizing his error.

Wilson was constantly telling lies; not big lies, just small ones.  When his father asked if he’d finished his homework, he said, “Yes, sir,” simply because saying, “No, I haven’t finished it,” would get him into trouble.  His father would say, “Why haven’t you finished it?” and Wilson would not feel comfortable saying, “Because I don’t understand the directions or know what half of the words mean.”  So, he would just say yes, because yes was an easy and convenient answer.

Despite the fact that he didn’t seem to be able to follow vague or extensive directions, he was able to help his mother develop systems for keeping the mail organized; rearrange the furniture in the den simply by eyeballing the room, rather than measuring it. Wilson could build magnificent Lego structures and seemed to have an innate grasp of mathematics, but he didn’t understand homophones and was forever misunderstanding idioms.  His spatial awareness, however, was acute: Wilson was an excellent athlete.  He was a talented baseball player and an active child.  He enjoyed working outside on his family’s farm, and was particularly drawn to tasks that required him to problem solve: How should we arrange the tack room so that we have equal access to equipment?

Wilson Meyer has Language Processing Disorder.  People with LPD are concrete literal – they appreciate specific, straightforward directions and often have trouble comprehending language, written and oral.  Concrete manipulative toys appeal to children with LPD; Legos and Bionicles are great toys that allow children to problem solve and manipulate objects.  [Please note that Brainjogging does not endorse these toys as products, merely as learning tools; also, Brainjogging does not advocate using these websites online gaming counterparts, merely the concrete blocks and figurines.] Action figures and dolls also appeal to children with LPD.  These children work very well from checklists; click here to download a Brainjogging checklist Meyer’s mother found that telling him, “Go wash your hands; dinner’s ready,” was a far more effective way get Meyer ready for dinner than was saying, “Go get ready for dinner.”  Children with LPD tend to possess incredible planning abilities.  Their spatial awareness is acute. Individuals with LPD are often very physical people; many are excellent athletes.  These are the strengths of individuals with LPD.  Their weaknesses derive from the speed at which they process language: children and adults with LPD process language approximately half a second slower than do typically-developing individuals.  This, of course, can be overcome.  Brainjogging is an excellent tool for people with LPD: Brainjogging increases individuals’ cognitive processing speed.  Brainjogging exposes children with LPD to idioms’ significance and the mystery of homophones; Brainjogging trains children to listen carefully to words and assess their meaning.

*Name changed to protect student’s identity

One Response to “Language Processing Disorder”

  1. Darcy Atkinson says:

    Thank you so much for this article. This described my son’s problems and now I have a direction so I can help him. Thank you again.

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