Every child begins cooing and babbling in their own time. You may have observed that your child is either ahead or behind their peers in reaching their language milestones. And that’s alright. Unless you notice a significant delay or a regression of the language skills they have already learned, there is no reason to be alarmed.
But, language disorders are all too common among children. Sometimes, it does not depend on the family's history of speech, language, and communication disorders. Some children find it hard to understand and use words to express their feelings, ideas, and thoughts.
It can be a helpless and harrowing feeling as a parent. But, you must remember that you are not alone! Instead of adopting a "wait and watch" attitude when you first notice the signs of language disorders in your child, you need to move forward and seek professional help. Asking for help early-on can help your child learn new skills to make up for their language delay.
Educating yourself about language disorders is the first step towards seeking the necessary treatment and therapy for your precious little one. So, here are all the FAQs about language disorders, including the different types, symptoms, causes, and treatments for language disorders.
- What is a Language Disorder?
- Speech disorders vs. language disorders: what’s the difference?
- Are language disorders common?
- Does your child have a language disorder?
- What causes language disorders in children?
- How does a language disorder affect a child’s life?
- How are language disorders diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for language disorders in children?
- How can parents help a child with a language disorder?
- How can Stamurai evaluate and provide therapy for language disorders in children?
- What should you always ask your child’s SLP or speech therapist?
1. What is a Language Disorder?
A language disorder makes it difficult for an individual to communicate. Someone with a language disorder may find it difficult to use language to express themselves as well as understand language in spoken or written form. Language disorders can range from the inability to construct meaningful sentences to the inability to understand one’s native language.
Language consists of several parameters. Speech is only a part of the language. A language disorder can affect one's vocabulary, reading abilities, gestures, comprehension, sentence structure, and written language.
Language disorders are classified into two main types –
Language disorder type #1: Expressive language disorder
Children and adults with an expressive language disorder may struggle to form grammatically correct & meaningful sentences, use new words, narrate their daily experiences, or make their needs known through spoken language. Although expressive language disorder primarily affects verbal communication, it may also have an impact on a person's writing skills. Struggling with expressive language disorder can be incredibly frustrating for children; they are aware of their needs & wants, but have a difficult time expressing them.
Language disorder type #2: Receptive language disorder
Individuals with receptive language disorder have trouble understanding spoken and written language. If your child has trouble understanding what you say (on most occasions), it may be a sign of receptive language disorder. They may not have a hearing impairment, but they still have trouble extracting meaning from what they hear. As a result, they may not be able to respond to questions. Or, they may respond atypically - in a way that doesn't make much sense to the audience.
Children may experience symptoms of both expressive and receptive language disorders. In such cases, they may have trouble using/understanding language.
2. Speech disorders vs. language disorders: what’s the difference?
It is easy to confuse speech disorders with language disorders. They do have some overlapping elements, but they are distinct. It is important to correctly identify the type of disorder to seek appropriate and timely treatment.
Here’s an easy example that can help you tell the difference between the two –
Marc and Stephen are of the same age. They are friends, and they go to the same elementary school. Marc has trouble saying the /r/ sounds. You can often hear him say "Wabbit" instead of "rabbit." However, Marc can say sentences like "the wabbit has big ears." On the other hand, Stephen cannot form complete sentences. He says something like "rabbit…big ear."
Since Marc can form grammatically correct sentences to express himself, he doesn't have a language disorder. However, errors in his pronunciation indicate that he might have a speech disorder. Stephen cannot use spoken words to express himself. He may have a language disorder.
In both cases, outsiders will have difficulty understanding what the children are saying, but for different reasons. Both instances warrant a thorough evaluation by an experienced speech-language pathologist (SLP) for diagnosis and speech therapy.
3. Are language disorders common?
Around 3.3% of children between the ages of 3 and 17-years have had a language disorder that lasted for a week or longer. About 5% of children exhibit some symptoms of a language disorder.
4. Does your child have a language disorder?
Children may have language disorders from a very early age. However, the signs and symptoms may not become apparent unless they are old enough to use more complicated language. Language disorders can manifest differently in different children. While some may have a problem using spoken language or reading, others may have trouble understanding what's being said to them.
If you notice any of the signs listed below, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician or an SLP for accurate diagnosis of language disorders.
Children with a receptive language disorder –
- May have trouble understanding what people say.
- May have problems learning new words.
- May experience difficulty following directions & instructions.
- May be unable to understand new ideas & concepts.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a child older than 18-months should be able to follow simple one-step directions or instructions. By the time they are 30-months old, they should be able to respond to questions with language or gestures. Your child should be able to follow two-step directions by their third birthday and use spoken language to communicate their ideas. If these milestones aren’t achieved progressively, your child may have a language disorder.
Children with an expressive language disorder -
- May not be able to use words correctly or form full sentences.
- May have trouble narrating or holding a conversation.
- May not be able to ask questions or express their needs.
- May also have problems reciting poems or singing songs.
Many of these symptoms are seen in younger children; but if such signs persist in a child older than 3-years without any improvement, you should speak to an SLP.
5. What causes language disorders in children?
Language disorders can have multiple causes. One or more factors can be at play to cause various symptoms of a language disorder. Often, a child’s language disorder can be associated with health issues such as –
- Injury or damage to the brain areas responsible for processing & producing language.
- A history of brain tumor or cancer.
- Congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy (CP).
- Chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome & Fragile X syndrome.
- Premature birth and extremely low birth weight (lower than 5.5 lb. or 2.5 kg).
- Other complications such as prenatal malnutrition, fetal alcohol syndrome, and exposure to other toxins before birth.
A combination of genetics and environment play a significant role in the onset of language disorders. A child with a family history of speech and language disorders is at a greater risk.
6. How does a language disorder affect a child’s life?
A language disorder can keep a child from expressing themselves. They may lag behind in class because they are unable to follow instructions. They may not be able to read and write as well as other children their age. Interacting with peers, making friends, and having a blooming social life may become extremely difficult for a child with a language disorder.
Untreated language disorders can affect a child's quality of life adversely. Since language disorders typically don't "sort themselves out," a child who isn't receiving timely treatment for a language disorder may be looking at a lonesome adulthood without a satisfactory career or job. Children may grow up with social isolation, depression, social anxiety, and low self-esteem due to the lack of language disorder treatment.
The best way to address a language disorder is through early intervention. If your child is showing signs of a language disorder, you need to speak with their healthcare professional or a speech language pathologist right away. Talking to a professional and getting a thorough assessment and diagnosis are the first few steps toward therapy for language disorders in children.
7. How are language disorders diagnosed?
For an early intervention of language disorders in your child, you will need a confirmed diagnosis of the disorder. The signs and symptoms of a language disorder can be diverse. Therefore, you will need the help of a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to assess and evaluate your child's language and communication skills.
The toddler years are of utmost importance for proper language development. If you have noticed that your child is having trouble understanding or using language, you should speak to their healthcare professional immediately. Their doctor may begin by observing and asking a few questions about your child's language habits. The healthcare professional may ask about your family history of speech and language disorders and your child's medical history.
After testing their hearing abilities and running a few routine tests, your GP or pediatrician may refer your child to an SLP. The doctor or SLP will give your child a few simple yet thorough tests that assess their language skills. These tests will help the SLP determine if your child is experiencing a language delay.
Here are a few things the SLP might check during the assessment –
- Whether your child can use spoken language as well as their peers to communicate
- Whether your child has a vocabulary appropriate for their age
- If your child can hold a conversation with others
- If your child can understand what’s being said to them
Getting a professional opinion is the first step towards an early intervention of language disorders in children. If you have reason to believe that your child is suffering a language delay, do not wait. Talk to your pediatrician immediately or book a consultation with Stamurai for a thorough online assessment of your child’s language abilities.
8. What is the treatment for language disorders in children?
The treatment for language disorders in children will depend upon the nature of the disorder, your child's age, and the severity of the condition.
Only an SLP can determine the true nature, cause, and severity of the condition. Therefore, before you employ DIY or at-home speech therapy exercises for language disorders, you should talk to a specialist. Always stick to exercises and activities that an SLP or speech therapist recommends.
Every child masters language and communication skills differently. The SLP will work with you and your child to tailor a plan that suits your child’s unique needs. The SLP may recommend activities and exercises for a child with language disorders –
- Activities to enjoy and reinforce communication through play
- Activities that use visual & tactile cues like photos, picture cards, books, and objects to promote language development
Remember, there is no overnight cure for language disorders. Even with early diagnosis and intervention, it may take a couple of weeks or even months to see any noticeable change in your child's language and communication. The improvement will depend upon your child's age, family history, and the severity of the language disorder.
9. How can parents help a child with a language disorder?
Find a therapist or SLP you trust
Talk to your pediatrician and other healthcare professionals to find a qualified and experienced SLP. Always double-check that they have the accreditation to treat your child. If necessary, talk to a behavioral therapist, audiologist, and your child's room teacher to help them through the process. Here at Stamurai, you can consult a licensed speech language pathologist having significant experience in treating language disorders in children anytime.
Talk to the therapist
No one will know the needs of your child better than you do. You will know what your child likes or dislikes. You are aware of their learning preferences, intelligence, and shortcomings. Be sure to communicate everything the therapist needs to know before working on the treatment plan.
Communicate with your child
Become a speech and communication model for your child. You spend the most time at home with them; so, talk to them slowly and enunciate. If you have trouble understanding what your child says, be polite while asking them to repeat it. Never answer questions or finish a sentence on their behalf.
Bring speech therapy home
An hour of online sessions or spending one evening at the SLP's office is never enough for a child. Work with the SLP to learn the speech therapy activities and exercises you can do with your child at home daily. You need to have patience and persistence to see your child's language skills improve.
10. How can Stamurai evaluate and provide therapy for language disorders in children?
Stamurai offers online speech therapy and treatment for language disorders. The team consists of certified and experienced speech therapists who evaluate and assess the language abilities of your child.
The interactions with your SLP will depend on the age of your child.
Online speech therapy for language disorders for children between 0-3 years old
Very young children always benefit from indirect speech therapy. Parents are directly involved in the sessions. You will work with the therapist to learn new techniques and activities that you can perform at home with your child to augment their language and communication skills. You can provide your feedback directly to the therapist during the next session.
Online speech therapy for language disorders for children between 3 and 6-years old
Parents can attend video sessions with children. They can acquire valuable communication and language skills. You can practice these skills with your child outside the sessions.
Online speech therapy for language disorders for children aged 7-years and up
Children older than 7-years can attend therapy video sessions independently. However, parents can sit in during these sessions. You may request the therapist to provide regular updates on your child's progress. You can also receive personalized tips to improve your child’s language & communication skills at home.
Online speech therapy for language disorders in adults
Adults are always welcome to attend the sessions by themselves. However, they can choose to bring their loved ones as well.
11. What you should ask your child’s SLP or speech therapist?
Before choosing a speech therapist for your child, you should always ask a few questions.
- Is my child exhibiting signs of a language disorder?
- What are some of the most prominent signs of language disorders?
- Is there a way to tell how severe their language disorder is?
- Can this particular language disorder affect my child's education, school life, relationships, and career prospects later on?
- Will there be any improvement in their language skills over time? What are some changes I can expect to see?
- Does my child need the help of a behaviorist or child psychologist?
- Is there a chance that my child’s language disorder is a manifestation of a developmental delay or autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
- Will their language disorder affect their ability to communicate?
- What kind of special attention and care will my child need?
- Where can I learn more about language disorders to help my child?