What is a Language Disorder?Tuesday April 4, 2017
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a language disorder as an impairment in comprehension and/or use of a spoken, written, and/or other symbol system. The disorder may involve the form of language (grammar), the content of language (meaning) and/or the function of language in communication (pragmatics), in any combination.
But what does that really mean?
There are three main areas of language: expressive language, receptive language and pragmatic language.
- Expressive language refers to what a child says.
- Receptive language refers to the language a child understands.
- Pragmatic language refers to the social use of language, or how a child uses language to relate to others and “function” in our world.
A child may exhibit an impairment in one, two or all three areas of language in any combination.
What does a Language Disorder look like?
A child with an expressive language disorder may demonstrate:
- Limited expressive vocabulary
- Shorter utterance/sentence length
- Decreased variety of words used
- Nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns
- Grammatical errors
- Difficulty with plurals, pronouns (using he for she, they, him or her), past tense verbs, deleting articles (the or a)
- Difficulty with sentence structure
- Produces sentences with words that are out of order
- Difficulty structuring and retelling stories (in both written and oral form)
A child with a receptive language disorder may demonstrate difficulty with:
- Understanding basic age-appropriate concepts
- Big/little, dirty/clean, more/less, same/different, longer/longest
- Following verbal commands
- One-step for children ages 1-3 (sit down, get the ___, give me ____)
- Multiple- step for children ages 4-8 (get your journal and write your name at the top)
- Identifying categories
- Answering yes/no questions
- Asking and answering wh-questions
- What, who, when, where, why
- Answering questions about a story
A child with a pragmatic language disorder may demonstrate difficulty with:
- Using appropriate eye contact
- Using language for a variety of functions
- Commenting, making requests, asking questions, demanding, informing
- Understanding non-verbal cues given by others
- Facial expressions
- Body language
- Turn-taking in play and in conversation
- Maintaining a topic in conversation
- Engaging in interactive play with peers
- Initiating interactions and communication with adults and peers
A child with a pragmatic language disorder may frequently:
- Use repetitive phrases
- Use memorized phrases or utterances inappropriately
- Demonstrate echolalia (inappropriately repeating another person’s words/sounds or simply parroting a persons words with no communicative meaning)
- Display limited interests or hyper focus on a preferred topic
- Display limited play skills
- Play with a limited number of toys
- Play with toys in the same manner each time
- Become upset when a play scheme is altered
Are a language disorder and speech disorder the same?
While both are considered to fall under the umbrella of a communication disorder, a language disorder is different from a speech disorder. A language disorder is an impairment of our understanding and use of language. A speech disorder is an impairment in our ability to physically produce language. Difficulty producing specific sounds, articulation disorders and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.