Receptive – Expressive Language Disorder

Does your child have trouble expressing himself with language? Or does he have trouble understanding language? These two language disorders can both appear in the same person, or a child may have only an expressive language disorder. (A language disorder is not the same as a speech disorder – children with language disorders can often produce speech sounds and intelligible speech, though they are often seen together in children.)

We begin developing language as soon as we’re born. But sometimes children have difficulty understanding what people are saying to them. Perhaps a child is affected by a brain injury, perhaps other developmental problems, or by autism spectrum disorder, hearing loss, or learning difficulties. However, most often parents never find out the underlying reason their child does not understand what he hears or why he does not express himself as well as other children his age.

A child with a language disorder may have just a few of the following symptoms, or many of them. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Children with a receptive language disorder have trouble understanding language. They may have:

  • A hard time understanding what other people have said
  • A hard time understanding what gestures mean
  • A hard time answering questions
  • A hard time taking turns in a conversation
  • Problems following directions that are spoken to them
  • Problems organizing their thoughts
  • Problems understanding the meanings of the words or concepts used by others
  • Problems understanding meaning when words are imbedded into sentences
  • Problems understanding complex sentences

Children with an expressive language disorder have problems using language to express their thoughts or needs. These children may:

  • Have a hard time putting words together into sentences, or their sentences may be simple and short with the words in the wrong order
  • Have difficulty finding the right words when talking, and often use placeholder words such as “um”
  • Have a hard time asking questions
  • Have a hard time learning songs and rhymes
  • Have a vocabulary below the level of other children the same age
  • Leave words out of sentences when talking
  • Use certain phrases over and over, and repeat (echo) parts or all of questions
  • Use tenses (past, present, future) improperly

How can I help my child with a language disorder?

A speech-language pathologist can work with your child to build his language skills. He’ll start with a thorough evaluation of your child’s communication skills. He may ask you to have your child’s hearing checked to rule out poor hearing as a root cause. Appropriate goals will be written with your input. Therapy will consist of activities designed to build on your child’s strengths in a fun, positive manner, and to target the needed areas.

What parents do at home is just as important, or more important, than what the therapist can accomplish in the therapy session. Working together is the key to success. Your child’s therapist will help you with activities to do at home to accomplish your child’s goals.