Have you ever had a conversation with someone who seems to not be listening to you? Or does your child have difficulties understanding what people are saying to them? They may be suffering from a receptive language disorder. Receptive language disorders can make it difficult for people to understand and use language. This can impact many aspects of life, from academic performance to social interactions. Yet, there are ways for parents and professionals to help! For sure, children with receptive language disorders will improve their communication skills! Read more to learn about receptive language impairments.
In this article we will discuss:
What is a receptive language disorder?
A receptive language disorder is an impairment in comprehension. This may be in spoken, written, gestural, and/or another symbol system. Children with receptive language impairment may experience difficulties with understanding words, phrases, and/or sentences. This makes it difficult for them to make conversations with their peers. Additionally, these difficulties may make it hard to follow along in class or complete schoolwork.
There are a few different types of receptive language disorders, which include:
Auditory processing disorder. This is a difficulty with understanding words despite having normal hearing. It may sound like the child is “tuning out” or not paying attention. When in reality, they cannot process what is being said.
Semantic-pragmatic disorder. This type of receptive language disorder is characterized by difficulty understanding the meaning of words and phrases, as well as difficulty using social language. For example, a child with this disorder may have trouble following a conversation. This is because they cannot understand what is being said. Additionally, they may have trouble using appropriate gestures and facial expressions during conversations.
Phonological processing disorder. This type of receptive language impairment is characterized by difficulty understanding sound structures. For example, a child with this disorder may have trouble distinguishing between the sounds “b” and “p”. This can make it difficult to understand words that contain those sounds.
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What are the symptoms of a receptive language disorder?
The symptoms of a receptive language disorder will vary depending on the type of disorder. But, some common symptoms include:
Difficulty understanding words, phrases, and/or sentences
Difficulty following along in class or completing schoolwork
Trouble making conversations with peers
Inappropriate use of gestures and facial expressions during conversations
Difficulty following instructions and commands
Having a hard time answering questions for speech therapy
What causes a receptive language disorder?
The cause of a receptive language disorder is not always known. But, it is believed that some disorders may be caused by an auditory processing disorder. Phonological processing disorder can also affect children's comprehension. Other developmental and neurogenic disorders can also cause receptive language disorder. Among these disorders are:
Autism spectrum disorder
Fragile X syndrome
Additionally, some disorders may be caused by damage to the brain from an injury or illness. Or a child might simply process language differently from other children, which makes the norm more difficult for them (i.e., Gestalt speech therapy).
How is a receptive language disorder diagnosed?
A receptive language disorder is typically diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist. An SLP will assess the child’s understanding of spoken, written, and/or gestural language in different contexts. Aside from assessing your child’s understanding, an SLP will also assess your child’s expressive language. Additionally, they will observe the child’s ability to use social language skills. Based on this assessment, the speech therapist will plan a specific intervention that will address the different and specific needs of each patient.
What is the prognosis for children with receptive language disorder?
The prognosis for children with receptive language disorder varies depending on the type. Another factor to consider is the severity of the disorder. But with early intervention and proper treatment, most children make significant progress. Changes at home can also improve your child's receptive language skills. Including the family members during intervention is a positive prognosticating factor.
How to help a child with receptive language disorder
Speech-language pathologists will typically recommend a specific therapy plan. This will help a child with receptive language impairment. This plan will be based on the individual needs of the child. Some common interventions include:
Auditory processing goals
This type of intervention focuses on helping the child to understand commands despite having an auditory processing disorder. An SLP will introduce simple to complex commands and instructions for children to understand. For example, they may start with commands such as “put the block on the table.” Then, they progress to more complex commands such as “find the toy that is under the couch”. Aside from commands, auditory processing goals also include questions for speech therapy. For example, an SLP may ask the child “what color is the chair?” to help them understand how to answer questions.
Language therapy goals
This type of intervention focuses on helping the child understand spoken, written, and/or gestural language. An SLP will introduce different concepts to the child to increase his/her vocabulary. This will make a huge difference in your child’s current understanding and future success.
Pragmatic training and goals
This type of intervention focuses on teaching the child how to use social language skills. This includes eye contact, turn-taking, and facial expressions. Children with a receptive language disorder may have difficulties socializing with peers. That is why pragmatic training is essential to help them understand and use social language skills.
This type of intervention focuses on teaching the child the sound structure of words. Children with receptive language impairment may also have difficulties reading and writing. Phonological training can help them understand the sound structure of words and be able to read and write better. If you think your child may have a receptive language disorder, it is important to seek out professional help. A speech-language pathologist will be able to assess your child’s language skills! They will also develop a therapy plan to address their specific needs.
Tips for parents of children with receptive language disorder
While it is important to seek professional help, there are also some things that parents can do at home to help their children:
Encourage your child to take part in daily conversations. At home, children have many opportunities to practice their receptive language skills. Try to include your child in conversations as much as possible. For example, when you are making dinner, ask your child to help you set the table. This will give them a chance to practice following instructions.
Read books aloud to your child and ask them questions about the story. Reading books will give your child an opportunity to learn new vocabulary. Practice following a story and answer questions. You can also point to pictures and ask your child “what’s this?” to help them practice identifying objects.
Play games that focus on following directions, such as Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light. You can also ask your child different household chores such as “can you please put your shoes away?”. These activities will help your child practice following instructions.
Make sure to give your child plenty of time to answer questions.
Avoid talking too fast or using words that are too complicated. When you talk to your child, use simple words and short sentences. This will help your child understand you better.
Be patient and encourage your child often. It is important to be patient when communicating with your child. They are still learning and it may take some time for them to understand what you are saying. Encourage your child often and let them know that you are proud of their progress.
If you think your child may have a receptive language disorder, it is important to seek out professional help. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.
About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.