Language difficulties and disorders

What is a language disorder?

A language disorder is the term used to describe a child's language when it doesn't follow typical development (as previously described). A child's individual language profile is unique, hence a speech pathologist will conduct an assessment to establish both strengths and potential deficits. This includes evaluating both understanding of language (such as ability to follow instructions, concept knowledge etc.) and use of language (forming sentences, vocabulary use etc.). Difficulties may be present in either one of these domains or both. Additional assessment of a child's pragmatics (social language) may also be necessary.

Warning signs of language difficulties

Warning signs of potential language difficulties will vary significantly depending on the child's age and stage. However, following are some examples of general warning signs that may warrant a language assessment:

  • the child has difficulty following instructions (e.g. follows the instruction incorrectly/misses information, forgets what was said, frequently asks for repetitions or says 'what?/pardon?')
  • the child confuses concepts (e.g. gets a big item when asked for a small one)
  • the child has difficulty listening and remembering
  • the child says a lot less than same aged peers (e.g. uses 1-2 words rather than sentences)
  • the child sounds 'young' compared to peers due to grammar errors (e.g. uses 'he' for 'she')
  • the child answers questions incorrectly (e.g. answers with 'where' if asked 'when')
  • the child struggles to start and maintain a conversation with peers
  • the child finds it hard to use imagination / engage in pretend play

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