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Early Language Delays (ELD)

Children may have trouble with either receptive or expressive language, and some may have trouble with both. While many children assume normal or nearly normal speech and language proficiency by age 5, some continue with severe reading deficits years later. 

Receptive language, which develops first, is the ability to understand language. A receptive language disorder impairs the comprehension of spoken, written and gestural language—leading to problems in how the child interacts socially and with schoolwork. Children with receptive language disorders may have trouble with:

    • Following verbal instructions or answering questions
    • Reading comprehension or understanding complicated sentences
    • Understanding the names of things
    • Taking turns during a conversation
    • Understanding another’s perspective

Children ages 2-5 year may not respond to their names, follow directions and engage with others talking to them.

School-age children tune people out, ask for directions to be repeated or have trouble understanding jokes, sarcasm or double meanings of words. They may become easily confused and frustrated and have trouble making friends.

Expressive language skills are how a child uses words to communicate thoughts or ideas. Children with expressive language disorders may understand what other people say, but cannot access the right words to communicate needs or ideas. This leads to frustration and low confidence, as well as problems in social settings and with academic achievement. 

A younger child may say “Mommy car,” instead of “That’s mommy’s car.” Or avoid verbal communications and instead use facial expressions, body movements, gestures or pointing. 

An older child may have trouble with:

      • Using vocabulary (relies on words like “thing” or “stuff”) or leaving words out of sentences
      • Creating grammatically correct sentences
      • Telling a story in order from start to finish
      • Clearly conveying a concept or idea
      • Recalling words
      • Combining sentences or using appropriate verb tenses

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder occurs when both receptive (understanding words) and expressive language (using words) are affected. Signs include difficulty understanding spoken language or written words, limited vocabulary, grammatically incorrect sentences and reduced sentence length. 

Read more about speech & language disorders and treatment options at CFI…



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