‘Expressive language disorder’ is a developmental communication disorder. Children with expressive language disorder have problems using language. They can't express how they are feeling and what they are thinking. They also face difficulty in expressing themselves while using written or sign language.

Some kids develop speech and language skills a little later than their peers. However, they catch up to the others eventually. Experts refer to this as speech delay.

Parents may refer to their late-talking children as “late bloomers.”

Nonetheless, some have pervasive difficulty in expressing themselves verbally. Children with expressive language disorder typically construct very short sentences or phrases.

What Are The Signs Of Expressive Language Disorders?

Here are some signs or symptoms which may indicate that child has an expressive language disorder –

  • The child struggles to put words together to form sentences to express their ideas and thoughts.
  • They have trouble recalling words.
  • They cannot use language appropriately with different people in different settings.

Here are some case studies of individuals with an expressive language disorder –

Case 1 - Example of a 3-years Old Child with Expressive Language Disorder

Chris is 3-years old. He is a happy child who likes ice cream, candies, and walks in the park. However, when it's time to go to the park, he uses 2-word phrases like "mummy park."

He does not have the typical vocabulary of a 3-year old, and he cannot produce 3- or 4-word sentences like his peers.

Case 2 - Example of a 7-years Old Child with Expressive Language Disorder

Eric is 7-years old. He is unable to form compound sentences. He can't join sentences by using "but," "and," or "if." Instead of saying, "We went to the zoo and saw a tiger," he says, "We went to zoo. We saw tiger."

He often makes grammatical errors and fails to use the different forms of verbs. He also knows and uses fewer words. Eric is a quiet child who sounds hesitant when trying to start a conversation.

Case 3 - 12-years old Has Expressive Language Disorder

Jessica is 12 years old. She avoids interacting with her peers and teachers. She's not talkative at all, and her classmates believe her to be introverted.

She has a limited vocabulary and offers overly simplified answers to complex questions. Her teachers report that she often jumbles up tenses and drops words.

Case 4 - Example of Expressive Language Disorder In A Teenager

Jacob is 16 years old, yet he can't narrate experiences logically and compactly. He often leaves out verbs and pronouns in his assignments.

He seems withdrawn since he avoids all social interactions. Jacob doesn't attend parties like his peers, and he doesn't enjoy video chats either. He avoids group conversations altogether.

Case 5 - Expressive Language Disorder in Young Adults

Jaime is almost 23 years old. He can't make small talk at work and doesn't interact with colleagues.

His performance review states that he is repetitive and curt. Jaime only uses short sentences and phrases to answer questions at work and home.

Jamie’s supervisor is worried since Jaime is prone to anxiety during meetings, can’t answer direct questions, or present company reports.

What Causes An Expressive Language Disorder?

The causes of expressive language disorders are unknown for most children. It is not a disorder of speech. Hence its cause does not involve the pathophysiology of the articulators.

In several cases, an expressive language disorder is associated with developmental disorders and diseases such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down syndrome, and hearing loss.

Sometimes, an expressive language disorder is often accompanied by receptive language disorder. In the case of receptive language disorder, the child has difficulty in understanding spoken language as well.

In most cases, receptive and expressive language disorders are developmental conditions. The child has had it since birth. In rare cases, a child may acquire a language disorder. That may happen due to injury to the head (brain), stroke, or a tumor.

Recent research also suggests that expressive language disorders may cluster in a family across multiple generations.

How is Expressive Language Disorder Diagnosed?

If your child has difficulty using language to express their thoughts and ideas, you must –

  1. Consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who can assess their speech and language skills.
  2. Consult an audiologist or ENT (ear-nose-throat doctor) to have their hearing tested.

The specialists will evaluate your child's hearing, learning abilities, cognitive function, speaking skills, and language development before offering a confirmed diagnosis.

Individuals with expressive language disorders can receive their diagnosis at any age. However, since it is a developmental disorder, the signs become apparent at a young age. It is typical for children to receive a diagnosis from a speech-language pathologist when they are preschool-aged.

An early diagnosis and intervention increase a child's chances of improving their language skills.

What Is The Treatment For Expressive Language Disorder?

The treatment options of an expressive language disorder depend upon its severity. Standard treatment for expressive language disorders includes speech therapy, behavior modification therapy or cognitive behavior therapy, and psychological counseling.

The intensity of treatment and number of sessions depends upon the individual's age, co-existing disorders, medical history, and mental health.

Here are some components almost every standard treatment for expressive language disorder includes –

Speech and Language Therapy

One-on-one sessions with professional speech therapists may help your child. Speech therapy sessions can help them form longer sentences and communicate more efficiently.

Such sessions aim at equipping the child with new words. An SLP can teach communication skills in a way that's easy to understand.

Home Care for Expressive Language Disorder

No matter how many sessions your child attends with the speech therapist, their treatment won’t be complete unless you guide and support them at home.

Remember to work with your child at home. Follow these tips if your child has been diagnosed with expressive language disorder–

  • Always speak slowly and clearly.
  • Ask your child concise questions with definite answers.
  • Remain patient while your child is trying to answer your question.
  • Reduce the anticipation and anxiety at home. If your child doesn’t want to talk at a point, don’t force them.
  • Read them stories from picture books. Ask them to narrate these short stories in their own words.
  • Talk to the teachers about their diagnosis, signs, and ongoing therapy.

Being supportive and trying to understand the frustrations of a child experiencing developmental expressive language disorder is as important as speech and language therapy. Speak to a child psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as possible if your child shows signs of emotional or behavioral issues.

Is Expressive Language Disorder Curable?

Expressive language disorder is a developmental condition. The signs and symptoms of language disorders typically begin to show in early childhood.

Sadly, even with early diagnosis and intervention, many language disorders are not curable. Depending on their cause and severity, some language disorders are highly treatable.

Children may expand their vocabulary with extensive therapy. Regular speech therapy may also contribute to their communication skills. Most importantly, speech therapy may also help a person acquire language skills appropriate for their age. Nonetheless, the symptoms of expressive language disorder persist through adulthood.