Language Disorders

is the understanding of and ability to put together ideas to communicate.

That would include: what words mean, how to put words together and using words and phrases that are appropriate for any given situation. 1 in 20 children has symptoms of a language disorder.  Language disorders are referred to as "receptive" (understanding words) or "expressive" (speaking words).

The causes of developmental language disorders are not known. They can occur in children with other developmental problems such as autism, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. A language disorder is different from a language delay in that the language skills do not develop normally.  While the child may have some language skills, others are notably lacking.  Or the way the skills are developing are atypical.Language disorders can occur with other types of developmental delays and are an integral in the diagnosis of autism in children.


Language Disorder


Children with a receptive language disorder have difficulty understanding and processing language.

It may be either developmental or acquired.  Receptive language disorders usually begin before age four, and often co-exist with expressive language disorders (mixed receptive-expressive).

Signs and Symptoms

  • difficulty following directions
  • decreased comprehension of “yes/no” and “wh” questions
  • limited vocabulary
  • poor understanding of grammatical markers and syntax
  • difficulty attending to spoken language

Receptive and expressive language disorders are frequently identified between ages 3-5, and speech-language treatment is recommended as soon as possible.


Expressive Language Disorder

Those with an expressive language disorder may have difficulty with verbal or written expression, while comprehension is within normal range.

Expressive language disorders may be developmental or acquired (resulting from brain injury).

Unlike expressive language delay in which pattern of development is slow but normal, an expressive language disorder occurs when language is slow to develop and sequence of development/pattern or errors is atypical.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Difficulty putting sentences together
  • Word retrieval problems
  • Smaller vocabulary than same-age peers
  • Problems with verb tense and pronouns
  • Trouble asking questions
  • Decreased verbal organization
  • Difficulty retelling stories
  • An inability to start or hold a conversation

It is also not uncommon for children to have a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, in which comprehension is also affected. These language disorders do not go away on their own, and require speech-language intervention.


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Evgenia Stefanaki

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