What is receptive language disorder?

A child with receptive language disorder has difficulties with understanding what is said to them. The symptoms vary between children but, generally, problems with language comprehension begin before the age of three years. Children need to understand spoken language before they can use language to express themselves.

Receptive language disorder may extend to adulthood when not treated early. These individuals may not understand understand jokes; take everything very literally. They may also find it difficult to focus on what someone is saying, particularly if there is are other distractions. They may often seems disinterested in conversations, even with people close to them. 

What causes receptive language disorder?

The cause of receptive language disorder is unknown, but is thought to consist of a number of factors working in combination such as:

  • Family history
  • Other disorders
  • Head injury

Signs and symptoms of receptive language disorder

Some of the signs and symptoms of receptive language disorder include:

  • A problem communicating orally
  • Difficulty following simple directions
  • Might understand stories read to them but not be able to describe them even in a simple way
  • A limited vocabulary compared to their peers and has trouble learning new words
  • Substitutes general words like “stuff” for more precise words, or says “um” more often than not
  • Is less talkative and has fewer conversational skills than their peers
  • Seldom volunteers ideas or discusses feelings
  • Certain words and phrases are used over and over again
  • Confuses verb tense and leaves out keywords
  • Is easily frustrated by the inability to communicate an idea or thought to you
  • Can pronounce words and sounds, but uses limited sentence structures when speaking (or sentences don’t really make sense)

Treatment for receptive language disorder

A speech-language pathologist or speech therapist will develop an effective individual education program for your child which can include:

  • speech therapy sessions
  • advice for how to help the child at-home or in-school 
  • direction for your child’s teacher to help her in class
  • coordination with a speech therapist in a language-based classroom

Typical strategies focus on language therapy to develop the important connections between letters, sounds, and words, vocabulary development, rehearsal, and practice of using language in social situations, and possibly multisensory techniques and whole language approaches.

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