A language disorder is an impairment that makes it hard for someone to find the right words and form clear sentences when speaking. It can also make it difficult to understand what another person says. A child may have difficulty understanding what others say, may struggle to put thoughts into words, or both.
You may notice that your child’s vocabulary is very basic and his sentences are short, ungrammatical and incomplete. While his peers chat and tell jokes, your child may have trouble following the conversation and miss the jokes. He also may speak in two-word sentences and have trouble answering even simple questions.
It’s important to note that a language disorder is not the same as a hearing issue or a speech disorder. Children with language disorders typically have no trouble hearing or pronouncing words. Their challenge is mastering and applying the rules of language, like grammar. They aren’t simply “late talkers.” Without treatment, their communication problems will continue and may lead to emotional issues and academic struggles.
There are three kinds of language disorders.
- Receptive language issues involve difficulty understanding what others are saying.
- Expressive language issues involve difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas.
- Mixed receptive-expressive language issues involve difficulty understanding and using spoken language.
Language disorders can either be acquired or developmental. An acquired language disorder, like aphasia, shows up only after the person has had a neurological illness or injury. This could be a stroke or traumatic head injury.
A developmental language disorder is much more common in children. Kids with developmental language disorders often start speaking later than their peers. This delay isn’t related to their intelligence level. In fact, kids with developmental language disorders typically have average or above-average intelligence. They usually have problems with receptive and expressive language skills before the age of 4.