There are three different types of language disorders:
- Receptive language disorder: Children with receptive language disorder have difficulty understanding language. They struggle to comprehend words they hear or read, as well as what others are saying. They often respond in ways that don’t make sense.
- Expressive language disorder: Children with expressive language disorder have trouble using language. They may be able to understand what other people say but have trouble speaking with others and or expressing their thoughts, feelings, needs, and ideas through language. The disorder can affect spoken, written, and sign language.
- Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder: Children with both disorders at the same time have difficulty understanding what others say as well as being understood by others.
What is a language disorder?
A language disorder is a communication disorder that affects the way a child comprehends or uses language. This is different from a speech disorder, which affects the way a child produces sound.
Language disorders are often developmental disorders that start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. About 5% of young children are diagnosed with language disorders between the ages of 3 and 5, and they are twice more common in boys than in girls.
Language disorders typically affect all forms of communication affecting a child’s performance at home, in school, and in social situations. A child with language disorder will have problems in learning all languages.
What causes language disorders?
Although the exact cause of language disorders is unknown, sometimes it is linked to a health problem or disability, such as:
- Brain injury
- Brain tumor or brain illness
- Developmental disorder (for example, autism)
- Damage to the central nervous system
- Birth defects, such as Down’s syndrome, fragile X syndrome, or cerebral palsy
The risk of having a language disorder increases with:
What are signs and symptoms of language disorders?
Language disorders present in early childhood, but symptoms may not be obvious until later when a child begins to be exposed to more complex language. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.
Receptive language disorder
Children with a receptive language disorder may have trouble with:
- Understanding meanings of words and sentences
- Understanding what people say
- Understanding gestures
- Learning new words
- Understanding what they read
- Understanding new concepts and ideas
- Answering questions
- Following instructions given to them
- Organizing their thoughts
- Identifying objects
Expressive language disorder
Children with an expressive language disorder may:
- Have difficulty using words correctly
- Speak in short or simple sentences
- Struggle to put words in proper order
- Have difficulty in asking questions
- Have trouble using gestures
- Have limited vocabulary compared to children of the same age
- Speak less than other children
- Omit words from sentences when talking
- Use certain phrases repeatedly
- Have trouble naming objects
- Repeat or echo parts of or entire questions
- Use past, present, and future tenses incorrectly
- Leave out conjunctions, such as “and” or “but”
- Struggle to apply various rules of standard spoken communication
- Appear shy or reluctant to talk
- Have difficulty telling stories, singing songs or reciting poems
- Have difficulty finding suitable words when talking and often use sounds, such as “um,” while searching for the correct word
What are complications of language disorders?
Children who have language disorders during preschool ages may present with the following in the future:
How are language disorders diagnosed?
Language disorder diagnosis starts with a pediatrician ruling out hearing problems or other sensory impairments that could impact language. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) then evaluates the child’s ability to comprehend and express language.
The SLP will conduct standardized tests to observe how the child:
- Follows directions
- Repeats phrases or rhymes
- Understands names of things
- Performs other language activities
In order to be diagnosed with a language disorder, a child must have an impairment in using language to communicate or carry on a conversation.
How are language disorders treated?
Language disorders can be treated in the following ways:
- Speech and language therapy: A speech-language pathologist may use different methods to help the child with language development by:
- Using toys, books, pictures, or objects
- Boosting phonological awareness
- Building vocabulary
- Using strategies to improve reading comprehension
- Using language to express complex ideas
- Asking and answering questions
- Engaging in simple activities, such as craft projects
- Improving social communication skills with back-and-forth conversation
- Counseling and cognitive behavior therapy: This helps treat related emotional or behavioral problems.
- Home care: Parents can help language development in a child by:
- Reading and narrating stories
- Speaking clearly, slowly, and briefly
- Listening and responding when the child speaks
- Keeping the atmosphere relaxed
- Making the child repeat instructions in their own words
Rosenbaum S, Simon P (eds.). Speech and Language Disorders in Children. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Apr 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK356279/
Vining CB, Guiberson M (eds.). Enhancing Language Services to Native American Children: A Look from the Inside. Language Disorders. June 2021; 41 (2). https://journals.lww.com/topicsinlanguagedisorders/pages/default.aspx
Top What Are Different Types of Language Disorders? Related Articles
Autism Spectrum DisorderAutism in children and adults is a developmental disorder, characterized by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is classified as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), which is part of a broad spectrum of developmental disorders affecting young children and adults. There are numerous theories and studies about the cause of autism. The treatment model for autism is an educational program that is suitable to an individual's developmental level of performance. There is no "cure" for autism.
Autism SlideshowWhat is autism? Learn about the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Get information about the causes of autism and available autism treatment options.
Autism QuizTake the Autism Spectrum Disorder Quiz related to the causes, reasons, symptoms, treatment, diagnosis, and therapies for this behavioral disorder.
Baby's 1st Yr SlideshowWhat developmental milestones can you expect to see during baby's first year? Find out when babies learn to smile, laugh, crawl, and talk.
Cerebral PalsyCerebral palsy (CP) is an abnormality of motor function and postural tone acquired at an early age (even before birth). Cerebral palsy is generally caused by brain trauma. Types of cerebral palsy include: spastic, dyskinetic (dystonic or choreoathetoid), hypotonic, and mixed types. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, and treatment is generally managing the symptoms of the condition.
Detecting Hearing Loss in ChildrenThere are many degrees of hearing, from normal hearing to deafness. Many states mandate the testing of newborns before leaving the hospital. The risk factors for hearing loss in children include
- a family history of hearing loss,
- frequent ear infections,
- diagnosis of a learning disability,
- syndromes associated with hearing loss,
- speech delay, and
- infectious diseases that cause hearing loss.
- the child not responding to his or her name,
- the child asking for words to be repeated, and
- the child not paying attention to what is being said.
Down SyndromeGet the facts on Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an additional set of chromosomes in a developing fetus. Down syndrome signs and symptoms include distinctive facial features, growth retardation, and decreased mental function and IQ. Blood tests and ultrasound may be used to screen for Down syndrome but chromosome analysis of the fetus is needed to diagnose the condition. People with Down syndrome age more quickly and may develop Alzheimer's disease as young as age 40. Sometimes people are diagnosed with mosaic Down syndrome, in which case they have more than one type of chromosomal makeup.
Autism: Early Signs and SymptomsAutism is known as a condition that falls under the category of the "autism spectrum disorders" because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior of an individual. Autism is said to be a "developmental disorder" because the signs and symptoms of the disorder generally appear in the first two years of life. However; toddlers, teens, and adults also can have autism.
Early signs and symptoms can vary amongst infants, babies, toddlers, teens, and adults that may include; no eye contact, not responding to his or her name; doesn’t babble or “baby talk”; does not use language correctly; rocking; twirling; and head banging.
How Can You Tell if Your Child Has Down Syndrome?Down syndrome affects many families every year. How Down syndrome may display in each child can depend on individual factors, including what type of Down syndrome the child has. Learn the signs of Down syndrome, what causes it, and available treatments if you believe your child may have it.
Is Dyslexia the Same as Autism?Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty interpreting words, pronunciations, and spellings. Autism or autistic spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder where the brain processes sound and colors in a manner different from an average brain.
Newborn Infant Hearing ScreeningA newborn infant hearing screening is performed before a child is discharged from the hospital. If an infant doesn't pass the test, a rescreen is performed. Detecting hearing loss at an early age increases a child's chance of having a healthy and more productive life. There are two methods of testing hearing in infants: auditory brainstem response (ABR) and otoacoustic emission (OAE). Both tests are accurate, automated, and don't require a visible response from the infant.
ParentingGood parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg, a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.
What Are the 3 Main Symptoms of Autism?Autism or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) can manifest as different symptoms in different children. The average age of diagnosis is 2 years, though some children may be detected at around 5 years of age.