What are Language Disorders?

Language Disorders

A Language Disorder causes issues with understanding and/or expressing language. Language disorders are often developmental. Signs and symptoms of language disorders start to appear in early childhood and can persist into adulthood. 

Language Disorders are a type of communication disorder and impact how people use and comprehend language. It is not a problem with speech, hearing or intelligence.

An individual with Language Disorder may struggle with:

1. Forms of language: 

  • Phonology (patterns of sounds in a language)
  • Morphology (how words are formed and their relationship to other words in the same language)
  • Syntax (set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language)

2. Content of language:

  • Semantics (meaning of words and phrases)

3. Function of language:

  • Pragmatics (how words are used in context)

There are two main types of language disorders:

  1. Expressive Language Disorder: A child has trouble getting their message across when they talk. They often struggle with expressing thoughts and feelings.
  1. Receptive Language Disorder: A child has trouble understanding the meaning of what others are saying. They may also struggle with comprehending what they read.

Some children might often have both disorders at the same time. They may struggle with both using and understanding language.

Causes and risk factors

Language disorders have a strong genetic component like most communication disorders. Most professionals also attribute the condition to immature neural development.

Other possible causes and risk factors are:

  • Developmental delays 
  • Premature birth 
  • Brain damage during gestation or infancy
  • Low birth weight and other pregnancy related issues 
  • Birth defects such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy
  • A family history of language disorders
  • Hearing loss
  • A brain injury or a brain tumour
  • A brain disorder such as autism
  • Stroke
  • Poor nutrition

A child with receptive language disorder may experience the following symptoms:

  • Have trouble understanding what others say, gestures, concepts
  • Struggle with reading and comprehending
  • Difficulty in responding to others or answering questions
  • Have trouble identifying objects
  • Have trouble following instructions
  • Struggle with learning new vocabulary
  • Have limited vocabulary

A child with expressive language disorder may experience the following symptoms:

  • Have trouble using words correctly
  • Inability to express thoughts and ideas
  • Struggle with telling stories and using  gestures
  • Have trouble asking questions
  • Have trouble with naming objects
  • Have limited vocabulary
  • Experience difficulty in forming sentences
  • Impaired ability to explain or describe something
  • Saying words in the wrong order or leaving words out entirely
  • Confusing tenses (for example, using past tense instead of present)

Early intervention often plays an important role in a successful outcome. The treatment for Language Disorder entails speech and language therapy. The treatment plan usually depends on a child’s age and severity of the symptoms. 

The speech-language pathologist (SLP) will help your child learn to enjoy communicating through play. They will use different tools and techniques to help your child with language and communication. The SLP will use methods that are best suited to your child’s condition.

They may use toys, books or pictures to help with language development. And SLP may have your child follow instructions for different activities like craft projects and help your child practice asking and answering questions.

Mental-Health Counselling can also be helpful to manage the anxiety and emotional issues that may arise as a result of a language disorder.

What can I do at home?

  • Try to speak calmly to your child
  • Try to maintain a relaxed environment at home to reduce anxiety
  • Don't show impatience or irritation when your child is talking to you
  • Try to minimise interruptions when your child is speaking
  • Don’t bring attention to your child's speech disorder
  • Ask your child to put your instructions in their own words after giving an explanation or command
  • Ask the teacher about class activities in advance to help prepare your child for discussions in advance
  • Discuss your child’s situation at their school to avoid bullying
  • Discuss your child’s situation with their teachers and with family members

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