Expressive and Receptive Language Disorders

Although most children learn to produce and understand language with almost no formal instruction, some children seem to lag behind in these skills in relation to the rest of their development. Issues with language development can be roughly divided into two broad categories: expressive language and receptive language impairments.

A difficulty with expressive language means that the child has difficulty producing language. At a very young age, this may simply present itself as a delay in learning to talk. As the child gets older, other signs of difficulty may be present, such as difficulty finding words, using incorrect pronouns (e.g. confusing “he” and “she”), and difficulty putting together sentences when speaking.

A receptive language issue would mean that the child has difficulty understanding language. Although it can be difficult to determine exactly what a child understands when listening, especially at a young age, there are some telltale signs that a child is having some difficulty understanding and processing language. For example, the child may show difficulty identifying objects or pictures when asked. They might also seem to have difficulty following directions, answering questions, or turn-taking when interacting with other children.

Expressive and receptive language delays are not mutually exclusive; quite often, children will present with difficulties in both areas, often to different degrees. If a child is having difficulty developing receptive and/or expressive language skills, an evaluation should be completed by a speech-language pathologist. The speech-language pathologist will evaluate the child’s linguistic skills and assess whether they are on target in regards to the child’s age. If it appears that services are warranted, the speech-therapist would work with the child to strengthen the skills they already have, and facilitate the development of new skills in order to improve overall communicative functioning.

Do you think that you or someone you know may benefit from the services of a speech-language pathologist? Contact Speech Associates of New York at 917-841-2965 or visit us on the web at We’ll pair you with one of our trained and certified speech-language pathologists who can provide in-home therapy to help address your speech, language, and communication needs.

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