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Speech and Language Therapy

Language Disorder

What Is A Language Disorder?

Many young children have difficulty with communication at some time in their lives. Most will eventually catch up. However, some will continue to have problems. When a child has difficulty getting his meaning across using speech, writing, or even gestures, we may be seeing a language disorder. Some children have a language disorder even though they produce sounds well and have understandable speech. Difficulty expressing meaning to other people is called an expressive language disorder.  Difficulty understanding other speakers is called a receptive language disorder. A child might have difficulties with both.  This is what is called a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.

Expressive language disorder

Expressive language disorder means a child has difficulty conveying information in speech, writing, sign language or gestures. A  may have difficulty coming up with the right words when talking.  The child may be unable to join words correctly into sentences. The child may have a small vocabulary or the child may use words incorrectly. He or she may speak using short, “telegraphic” phrases, leaving out small but important words, or the child may put sentences together incorrectly.

Receptive language disorder

Receptive language disorder means a child has difficulties understanding what is said to them. Another name for receptive language disorder is language comprehension deficit. A child may have difficulty understanding the words or sentences used by others. Or the child may seem to show poor attention to speech. This may cause difficulty following spoken directions.  It may also lead to problems with learning. Hearing tests are required to make sure the problems aren’t caused by hearing loss.

What to look for

  • If the child does not use any words by 16-18 months
  • If, by 18 months, the child cannot follow simple instructions such as, “Give me your shoe,” or cannot point to body parts or common objects when asked
  • If the child has not started combining words by the age of 2
  • If the child does not use any complete sentences by the age of 3
  • If, at 3, the child imitates or “echoes” parts of questions or commands instead of responding properly.  For example, if when asked, “What’s your name?” the child says, “Your name!”
  • If sentences are still usually short or jumbled by the age of 4
  • If, by 4, the child often uses words incorrectly.  Or if the child uses a related word instead of the one he or she meant. For example, a child may say “cut” for “scissors,” or “dog” for “cow.”

Helping your child’s development

Children learn speech and language skills by listening to the speech of others, and practicing as they talk to others. Parents are the most important teachers for their child in the early years. They can help the child by giving lots of opportunities to listen to speech and to talk. This can be done by frequently pointing out and naming important people, places and things. They can also read to the child and talk to the child throughout the day, especially during daily routines, interactive play and favorite activities. Parents can give the child models of words and sentences to repeat. Parents can also set up opportunities for the child to answer questions and talk. Listening to music, singing songs, and sharing nursery rhymes and finger play are also great ways to build speech and language while having fun with your child.

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