Most infants or toddlers can understand what you’re saying well before they can clearly talk. As they get older and their communication skills develop, most children learn how to put their feelings into words.
But some children have language disorders. They may have:
A child will often have both disorders at the same time. Such disorders are often diagnosed in children between the ages of 3 and 5.
Language disorders can have many possible causes. A child’s language disorder is often linked to a health problem or disability such as:
Sometimes language disorders have a family history. In many cases, the cause is not known.
It’s important to know that learning more than one language does not cause language disorders in children. But a child with language disorder will have the same problems in all languages.
The cause often is not known, but children at risk for a language disorder include those with:
Children with receptive language disorder have trouble understanding language. They have trouble grasping the meaning of words they hear and see. This includes people talking to them and words they read in books or on signs. It can cause problems with learning. It needs to be treated as early as possible.
A child with receptive language disorder may have trouble:
A child with expressive language disorder has trouble using language. The child may be able to understand what other people say. But he or she has trouble when trying to talk, and often can’t express what he or she is feeling and thinking. The disorder can affect both written and spoken language. And children who use sign language can still have trouble expressing themselves.
A child with expressive language disorder may have trouble:
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s language use. He or she will also look at your child’s health history. Your child may have a physical exam and hearing tests. Your child’s healthcare provider will likely refer your child to a speech-language pathologist (SLP). This specialist can help diagnose and treat your child.
An SLP will evaluate your child during play. This may be done in a group setting with other children. Or it may be done one-on-one with your child. The SLP will look at how your child:
To treat your child, the speech-language pathologist (SLP) will help him or her to learn to relax and enjoy communicating through play. The SLP will use different age-appropriate methods to help your child with language and communication. The SLP will talk with your child and may:
The SLP will explain more about the methods that are best for your child’s condition.
A language disorder can be frustrating for parents and teachers, and also for the child. Without diagnosis and treatment, children with such a disorder may not do well in school. They may also misbehave because of their frustration over not being able to communicate. But language disorders are a common problem in children. And they can be treated.
If you think your child might have a language disorder, talk with your child’s healthcare provider right away. Research has shown that children who start therapy early have the best outcome. Make sure that the SLP you choose is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
The SLP will guide your child’s treatment. But it’s important to know that parents play a critical role. You will likely need to work with your child to help him or her with language use and understanding. The SLP will also talk with caregivers and teachers to help them work with your child.
Ask the SLP what you should be doing at home to help the process. The SLP may advise simple activities such as:
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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