What is a language disorder?
Language is our system of human communication and allows us to combine words in meaningful and structured ways to express our thoughts and feelings, communicate with others, have our wants and needs met, and learn and understand new concepts.

Receptive language refers to the language a person is able to understand, while expressive language refers to the language a person is able to use.

Examples of Receptive Language Skills: Understanding what words mean; learning and retaining new vocabulary; following directions, answering WH questions, sorting items into categories, understanding concepts like first/last, big/small, cause/effect, problem/solution, and author’s purpose.

Examples of Expressive Language Skills: putting words together to form complete thoughts and sentences, organizing thoughts and information when presenting stories or ideas, using appropriate grammar (word order, verb tenses, pronouns), using the appropriate name or label for items and people, describing events with appropriate detail, requesting information or asking for help, sharing feelings, and putting thoughts into words (written language).

There are also pragmatic language disorders. Pragmatic language refers to the rules for social language and understanding how to use language for different purposes and in different social situations. Taking turns in conversation, introducing new conversational topics, interpreting facial expressions, understanding personal space, and understanding others perspectives fall under pragmatic language.

Language Processing refers to the ability of a child’s brain to interpret and assign meaning to auditory information and then respond appropriately. As students get older, more demands are placed on their language processing and school subjects tend to include more abstract concepts rather than memorizing facts and information. This is why language processing disorders are typically identified around third grade.

What happens in language therapy?
In language therapy, a speech-language pathologist will interact with your child by playing games or talking about pictures, books, or ongoing events in order to stimulate language development. They use tailored, repetitive exercise to build up weak language skills.

Language plays a significant role in a child’s learning. Speech-language pathologists work to develop a child’s phonological awareness, like rhyming and identifying sounds in words, in order to improve early reading skills. They help children express more complex ideas by teaching children to combine their ideas in sentences using concepts like “joining words” and, but, or because. They build children’s vocabulary skills by helping kids remember words by acting them out or using them to tell a story, connecting them to previous experiences, or other vocabulary. Speech-Language Pathologists also work on conversational skills and help children pick up on social cues and learn how to interact appropriately with peers and adults in different situations. They also teach strategies, like chunking information or identifying keywords, to help children with retaining important auditory information.

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