Language Delay

Some children have problems with understanding or receptive language skills. They may have trouble:

  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Following directions
  • Answering questions
  • Identifying objects and pictures
  • Taking turns in games such as peek-a-boo or when talking with others

Some children have problems talking or expressive language skills. They may have trouble:

  • Asking questions
  • Naming objects
  • Using gestures
  • Putting words together into sentences
  • Learning songs and rhymes
  • Using correct pronouns, like “he” or “they”
  • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going

Many children have problems with both receptive and expressive language skills.

Some children with expressive and/or receptive language difficulties will also have trouble with early literacy skills, such as:

  • Telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end
  • Remembering nursery rhymes and finger plays
  • Learning to rhyme
  • Naming letters and numbers
  • Learning the alphabet

It is very important to support early literacy development in children and identify those who may be at risk for more persistent difficulty. Early literacy intervention can have a significant positive impact on later reading and writing development.

Factors that may increase the risk that a late-talking child will have continuing language problems include:

  • Below average receptive (understanding) language
  • Lack of gestural communication
  • Lack of early intervention
  • Slow progress in language development

What if my child speaks more than one language?

A language disorder  does not come from learning a second language. It won’t confuse your child to speak/hear more than one language in the home. Speak to your child in the language that you know best.

Older Children and Language Disorders

Children with a history of language delay (late talkers) are at higher risk for a later diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment (SLI).  A child with SLI has normal nonverbal intelligence, hearing and motor development, their difficulty is specific to language. SLI affects both receptive (comprehension) and expression of language. Children with a history of delayed onset of speech and language or language delays that persist beyond the end of a child’s fourth year of age are considered to be at higher risk for a later diagnosis of SLI.

Characteristics of Specific Language Impairment

Children with SLI may speak in shorter sentences than their same aged peers. They may use nonspecific words (thing, stuff, it) so it’s difficult to determine what they are talking about. Their speech may lack grammatical markers, such as tense, plural and possessive markers and they may mix up pronouns (he/she, him/his) beyond the developmentally appropriate age. They may have trouble telling a story in a sequential and organized manner.  Difficulty understanding directional terms, prepositions (under, inside, between) and grammatical markers can cause difficulty with comprehension.  Sometimes these children appear to be inattentive as they don’t seem to understand or remember what you tell them. They may have trouble paying attention and following along in a group.  It is important to rule out language based learning problems prior to diagnosing attention deficit disorders in children.