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No-Nonsense Guide To Language Disorders

by | May 18, 2020

Did you know there is a difference between speech and language? Speech is how we say sounds and words. Language is how we use what we know to communicate with others. If you missed last week’s post about speech sound disorders, check it out here. Today we are going to learn all about language disorders!

Language Development

You’ve already heard me say this quite a bit, but language development truly does start the moment we are born. The chart below details just a few language milestones that occur in the first few years of a child’s life.

Language Development Chart 1

Language Disorders

Language is broken down into two parts: receptive language and expressive language. The way I like to explain it to parents is like this:

  • Receptive language: What we understand.
  • Expressive language: How we are able to use what we understand to communicate with others.

When there is a disorder associated with language, it is either a receptive language disorder, expressive language disorder or a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.

Who is at risk?

More often than not, the cause of a language disorder is unknown. However, children at risk for a language disorder include those with:

  • A family history of language disorders
  • Premature birth
  • Genetic disorders (like Down Syndrome)
  • Autism
  • Brain Injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • Stroke

What Does a Language Disorder Look Like?

Receptive Language

If your child has delays in their receptive language they might have difficulty with the following:

  • Understanding what others are saying
  • Understanding gestures (example: you holding your hands out, they understand that means you’ll pick them up)
  • Following directions
  • Identifying objects and pictures when named

Expressive Language

If your child has delays in their expressive language they might have difficulty with the following:

  • Using words more often than gestures
  • Naming pictures
  • Using words for a variety of reasons (labeling, requesting, answering yes/no questions, etc.)
  • Combining words into phrases

More often than not, when I get a new referral it is because a parent has concerns with their child not using words. They notice that their child can’t express their basic wants and needs (like what they want to eat, play with or do).

Word Count

Language Delays

Not all kids develop at the same pace. Sometimes kids just take a little extra time to develop their language skills to communicate their wants and needs. And there is nothing wrong with this! If your child isn’t reaching all of these language milestones at the same age as their peers, I don’t think it should terrify you. I do, however, stay away from the “wait and see” approach. Click here to read why.


I hope you found this article useful! Still have questions? Feel free to comment below or send a message straight to my inbox!

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