Communication is essential to everyday life, and teaching children to communicate effectively is integral to their development. Recognizing language disorders and testing to identify specific problems can allow children to get the treatment they need to address these problems. If you notice that your child has trouble finding the right words when they are trying to speak, putting together meaningful sentences or understanding what others say to them, they may have a language disorder.
Common Language Disorders in Children
Language disorders in children are fairly common. Up to five percent of school-aged children are estimated to have language disorders. It has nothing to do with intelligence as children of above average intelligence can struggle with language disorders. It is important to note that they are not the same as speech disorders because children may have no problem pronouncing words, but rather applying the rules of language to what they say or hear. Two very common language disorders in children are preschool language disorders and language-based learning disabilities.
What are Preschool Language Disorders?
Preschool language disorders affect children between the ages of 3 and 5. You may notice that your child has trouble understanding what you’re saying to them, using language appropriately, or both. These problems are divided into two categories: Receptive and Expressive.
Receptive Language Issues
Receptive language describes a problem with understanding language. Not that your child doesn’t know the words, but they have trouble making sense of them and connecting thoughts through to conversation. Common signs of receptive language issues include problems with:
- Interpreting gestures
- Following directions
- Answering questions
- Identifying objects or pictures
- Taking turns in a conversation
It can be difficult to identify receptive language issues in young children and know whether they truly have a problem or it’s just typical behavior for their age. Testing can help to further evaluate the situation.
Expressive Language Issues
Expressive language describes a problem with talking – not actually forming words, but using them correctly. Your child may understand what you’re saying to them, or the story you’ve just read, but they have trouble feeding the information back to you in a way that makes sense. Some common signs of expressive language issues include trouble with:
- Asking questions
- Naming objects
- Expressing themselves through gestures
- Connecting words to form a sentence
- Learning songs and rhymes
- Using correct pronouns
- Initiating and continuing conversation
Your child may use the same simple words or phrases over and over again instead of having a more vibrant vocabulary. They may also get frustrated when trying to express themselves because they can’t communicate their thoughts clearly. Expressive language problems are usually easier for parents to identify.
If your child has both receptive language and expressive language difficulties, they may have a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.
What is a Language-Based Learning Disability?
A language-based learning disability could affect children at any age. It refers to their progress as compared to other children of a similar age in regards to reading, writing, and spelling. You may have heard it referred to as simply a learning disability. Children with learning disabilities often have trouble with both spoken and written language and integrating the two.
Understanding Dyslexia and its Role in Language-Based Learning Disabilities
When many people think of learning disabilities, one of the first things that come to mind is dyslexia. Dyslexia is often associated with reading, but has a broader impact on writing, spelling and sometimes speaking. Although there is no “cure” for dyslexia, with the right strategies, children can learn to overcome these difficulties and function very effectively.
Some of the common signs of dyslexia and a language-based learning disability include:
- Finding the right words to express what they want to say or write
- Learning new vocabulary words
- Matching letter sounds with correct letters
- Mixing up the order of letters in a word
- Comprehending questions that are asked
- Following directions
- Identifying left and right (impacts ability to read and write because we move left to right)
- Mixing up the order of numbers (telephone numbers, addresses, or math calculations)
- Memorizing multiplication tables
Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) have a variety of tests and evaluations that they can use to identify language disorders in children. Once the problem is determined, they can create an appropriate plan for helping your child to overcome these challenges and maximize their learning and communication potential. If you are concerned that your child may have a language disorder, ask about PediaPlex’s language disorder and testing options for children to detect problems early on.