Most babies and toddlers are able to understand what is being said well before they themselves have the ability to talk. As children grow and develop their communication skills, most children learn how to express their thoughts and feelings with words. Babies are ready to learn a language from birth, and they will learn the language (or languages) that is used in their environment and by their families. It takes time to learn a language, and children can vary significantly in how quickly they master skills and meet milestones in their language development.
Some children, however, develop language disorders as they grow. There are many things that can cause a language disorder to develop in a child. Speech therapists are experts when it comes to guiding and supporting the development of language skills in children. If you want to learn more about language disorders and how speech therapy can help, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is a Language Disorder?
Language is the words we use to convey our ideas, thoughts, and feelings. A person with a language disorder may have problems with talking, understanding others, and reading and writing. A speech disorder is different from a language disorder in that a speech disorder refers to difficulties related to producing speech sounds and speech sound combinations. A language disorder refers only to difficulties with understanding and producing language. There are two types of language disorders:
Receptive Language Disorder – Difficulty understanding words that are heard and read.
Expressive Language Disorder – Difficulty expressing feelings and thoughts and speaking with others.
Many children will have both types of disorders simultaneously. Language disorders are typically identified and diagnosed in children sometime between the ages of 3 and 5.
What Causes a Language Disorder?
Language disorders can have multiple possible causes, however, a language disorder in a child can often be connected to another disability or health problem such as:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder or another Brain Disorder
- Traumatic Brain Injury or Brain Tumor
- Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy or other Birth Defects
- Difficulties in Pregnancy or Birth, related to such things poor nutrition, fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, or low birth weight
Sometimes language disorders have a genetic link or family history. In many cases, the cause of a language disorder is not known. It’s important to note that learning to speak more than one language does not cause language disorders in children. That being said, a child with a language disorder will experience the same problems in all their spoken languages. The sooner you seek support for a language disorder, the better. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
How are Language Disorders Diagnosed?
Your child’s doctor or healthcare provider will inquire about your child’s language use during visits and routine checkups. They will also review your child’s health history. They may wish to conduct a physical exam and hearing tests. If there are significant concerns about your child’s language development, your child’s healthcare provider will likely issue a referral for your child to a qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP). This specialist can help to diagnose your child and create a treatment plan for your child.
Typically, a speech therapist will evaluate your child by engaging in play. Sometimes, this is done with other children in a group setting. In other cases, it may be done one-on-one with your child and the therapist. The SLP will evaluate how your child:
- Follows directions
- Understands and Identifies the names of things
- Repeats phrases or rhymes
- Does in other language activities
Do Language Disorders Go Away?
A language disorder is considered to be a serious learning disability and will typically not improve on its own, but improvements in language skills are possible through treatment, — especially when early intervention is possible. When a language disorder diagnosis is reached for either an adult or a child, it is normal to feel upset or worried. Communication and language are widely regarded as the most critical of human skills, and so it is easy to understand the presence of worry or fear that the individual who may have fallen behind in their language skills may not have the opportunity to successfully communicate and develop significant and meaningful relationships.
However, if you or your child or a loved one are experiencing receptive or expressive language difficulties, don’t worry — time with an experienced and qualified speech therapist can make an incredible difference for anyone who is working to overcome a language disorder. While there isn’t a perfect age to seek help from a speech therapist, the earlier you can get started the better. If you have a significant concern about you or your child’s language abilities and skills, you can ask your doctor for a referral to a speech and language pathologist, or connect with one through your child’s school, your state’s Early Intervention program, online with Great Speech or through a local college or university. From the moment you are formally diagnosed with a language disorder by your speech therapist, there is an opportunity to progress and move forward, as well as get set up with the appropriate supports that are needed to meet your goals and be successful.
How Do You Treat a Language Disorder?
To treat someone with a language disorder, a speech-language pathologist will help the individual to learn to enjoy and relax while communicating through various activities and exercises. If it is a child who is being treated, most of the exercises during appointments will be based on play. The speech therapist will use various age-appropriate methods and approaches that will help with improving language and communication skills. During appointments, the SLP will talk with the individual and may engage in the following ways:
- Use books, toys, household objects, or pictures to help and encourage the development of language
- Engage with various activities, such as craft projects
- Have your child practice conversation skills and skills such as asking and answering questions
The speech and language pathologist will also explain the methods that are best for the individual’s condition and current skill set. Each treatment plan will be completely individualized to work towards meeting the specific goals and milestones set forward by the SLP. With the right support and determination, improving language skills in an individual with a language disorder is possible. Early intervention offers the best outcome, so don’t delay, schedule your free introductory call today!