It can be daunting when your child receives a diagnosis of expressive language disorder.
While you’ve likely noticed the signs, it can be overwhelming to think about supporting your child with this challenge. After all, this is one of the most fundamental of skills – the ability to communicate successfully with others.
However, take heart! Your child can get the support they need to express themselves confidently. You just need a good understanding of these disorders and the support of a qualified speech therapist.
Read on for our guide to expressive language disorder.
Defining Expressive Language Disorder
For children with expressive language disorder, expressing themselves in everyday situations is a constant struggle. Here are some of the signs that you may have noticed in your child.
Conversation and Relationship Difficulties
This can manifest itself in challenges in making and maintaining a conversation. Their receptive skills may be good – they can take in what others are saying. It is making their point that can be a huge undertaking.
Because conversation is the lifeblood of relationships, you may feel that it is difficult to get close to your child. It can be hard to connect emotionally as you would like to when your child can’t express themselves fully.
This can also lead to challenges at school and in social situations. Children with expressive language disorder may tend to be loners, or have a very limited circle of friends.
Word Selection Challenges
Children with this disorder may also rely on a very limited vocabulary. You may have noticed your child struggling to find the specific name for an everyday item. Many children resort to calling things ‘this’ or ‘that’.
Your child’s teacher may have highlighted a concern in their schoolwork. Their answers may be one word at best, and they may simply repeat back to the teacher what they have just said.
Grammar can also be a challenge for children with this disorder, particularly using verbs correctly. Sometimes they may miss out verbs entirely.
This naturally leads to challenges in writing. While learning to write and spell in itself may not be too difficult, writing anything beyond basic phrases and sentences will be hard for them.
Lack of Intonation and Modulation
When we speak, we naturally vary our pitch, speed, and intonation depending on the situation and subject we are talking about.
Children with this disorder often struggle with these elements of natural speech. Resultingly, their speech may sound stiff and awkward.
Causes of Expressive Language Disorder
Usually, the cause of this disorder is unclear.
Sometimes, an illness or accident could appear to be the cause. These cases are known as acquired disorders.
Another factor in acquired disorders could be hearing loss, whether temporary or permanent. If your child suffers from ongoing ear infections, this on/off hearing loss could also lead to problems with expressive language.
With developmental disorders, it is possible that genetic factors are at play. However, currently, these are not well understood.
Although the causes are unclear, there are effective treatment options that can help your child to overcome these challenges.
Getting a Diagnosis
You may suspect your child has expressive language disorder, or have had a diagnosis from a specialist.
Usually, the initial signs are picked up by pediatricians, parents, and teachers, who notice that the child is not able to meet expected language development milestones.
Referral to a speech-language pathologist is important for accurate diagnosis and recommendations regarding a treatment plan. They will put them through tests that will help to determine the exact nature of the disorder.
Expressive language disorder will be the diagnosis if your child can understand the language to the level expected for their age, but can’t express themselves at the expected level.
It is usual to find that children exhibit both expressive and receptive language disorder. The speech-language pathologist will be able to advise you on the right course of treatment for your child’s individual needs.
Treating Expressive Language Disorder
The key point is recognizing that no two children – or their challenges – are entirely alike.
A trained speech therapist will analyze your child during the initial consultation to prepare a tailored action plan. This will then be followed up by speech therapy sessions, building week by week, gradually developing your child’s confidence.
At Great Speech, this is done using a teleconferencing model, which is particularly effective for language disorders.
Other methods involve face to face speech therapy and group speech therapy.
Specific methods used will vary from therapist to therapist. This depends on the diagnosis and suitability for your child. However, you can expect that the therapy will be suitable for the age and aptitude of your son or daughter.
Techniques may include modeling target behaviors. Play can be used as a natural, relaxed setting for these activities. The therapist will model specific aspects of speech – sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical structures – and reinforce them.
Reward systems such as stickers or high fives will be used so they associate positive emotions with addressing these issues.
For older children, therapy may include asking them to make judgments about what to say in different social contexts and role-playing different day to day scenarios.
Discuss with the speech therapist what you can do as a parent to support and reinforce the therapy sessions.
This will help your child to make progress. They will understand that these are everyday skills, not just something they practice during their sessions.
The Main Point: Expressive Language Disorder
Communication difficulties can be very frustrating for both child and parent. But with good understanding and appropriate treatment, they can be resolved.
Don’t delay if your child has a diagnosis or you suspect that your child may have this disorder. Take the next step and arrange for speech therapy as soon as possible.
You will be delighted to see the progress that your child makes and the satisfaction it brings them.
We’re Here to Help
The good new is speech therapy is an effective form of treatment for children with this and many other disorders.
At Great Speech, we offer a range of online speech therapy services that can help your child overcome these difficulties.