Language disorders are a type of communication disorder. People who don’t know the term might think it has to do with speech. But language disorders are about trouble using and understanding spoken language.
There are three main types of language disorder:
- Expressive language disorder | People have trouble getting their message across when they talk. They often struggle to put words together into sentences that make sense.
- Receptive language disorder | People struggle to get the meaning of what others are saying. Because of this, they often respond in ways that don’t make sense.
- Mixed receptive-expressive language issues | People struggle with both using and understanding language.
Language disorders are often developmental. They start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. But they can also be caused by a brain injury or illness.
Language disorders aren’t a matter of intelligence. People who have them are as smart as other people. But having a language disorder can make it challenging to learn and to connect with other people.
Signs of language disorders
The signs are different, depending on the type of language disorder and the age of the person. The signs start in early childhood and continue into adulthood.
Signs of an expressive language disorder can show up very early. Kids are often late to talk and use very few words once they start. As they get older, they may often use vague words like stuff and thing. Or they may use words incorrectly.
Signs of receptive language disorder typically appear a little later. Kids may not respond to what others say — or they may respond in ways that are off-topic. As they get older, they may misunderstand what people say and take things the wrong way.
For both of these language disorders, a common sign is lack of interaction. Kids and adults may avoid talking with people or being in a social setting.
Speech-language therapy and reading challenges
One of the first reading skills is called phonological awareness. It’s the ability to recognize and use sounds in spoken language. Kids rely on that ability to sound out (decode) words.
Kids with reading challenges like dyslexia typically have trouble with this skill. Speech-language therapy can help them hear that the word bat breaks down into b, a, and t sounds. This can improve reading comprehension skills and encourage kids to read.
Difficulty with language can also cause problems with reading comprehension. SLPs work on those skills, too.