How to Detect Language Disorders in Children

We learn to communicate very early in life. There are many things that can affect this process, however. Detecting language disorders early on is key to treating and avoiding issues in the future.
How to Detect Language Disorders in Children

Last update: 30 March, 2018

Language disorders in children can manifest in delays or difficulties in learning to speak.

Children who have a language disorder may have trouble communicating with others and making themselves understood. This is directly related to expressive language disorders.

Meanwhile, children who struggle to understand what others are saying may have a receptive language disorder.

Language develops naturally in babies and young children. The process begins from birth.

For a child to correctly acquire their mother tongue, they must be able to hear, understand and remember. They must also develop the ability to put together phrases and sentences.

Causes of language disorders in children

According to statistics, around 1 in 20 children show symptoms of a language disorder. When the cause of their difficulties is unknown, the diagnosis of a language development disorder (DLD) is applied.

Difficulties processing and understanding language normally begin to appear at around 4 years of age. Some mixed language disorders may be caused by factors such as brain injuries.

Language disorders may also occur due to developmental delays or damage to the central nervous system, known as aphasia.

When this type of disorder occurs, speech and language don’t develop normally. The child may acquire certain linguistic abilities, but struggle with others.

Symptoms of language disorders

A child who has a language disorder will often show one or more of the symptoms below. These may be severe or mild.

Children with a receptive language disorder may have difficulty understanding messages, and will display some of the following signs:

  • Difficulty understanding what other people say
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts and behavior
How to Detect Language Disorders in Children

On the other hand, children with an expressive language disorder tend to have difficulty communicating what they’re thinking or asking for something they need.

These are some common signs:

  • Difficulty putting words into a phrase or sentence. They may use only short, simple phrases.
  • Word order in a phrase may not be correct.
  • They have trouble finding the correct words to say what they mean and often display verbal tics.
  • Their vocabulary is below the level expected for their age group.
  • They use certain phrases repeatedly.
  • They use the wrong tense or form of words.

Types of speech and language disorders

There are many types of language disorders that can occur in children. Many of these are fairly easy to detect.

  • Childhood stutter: A childhood stutter is a problem that can be diagnosed and treated early in life. It’s an alteration in the rhythm and fluency of speech, characterized by the repetition of syllables, words or phrases.
  • Language delay: The diagnosis of a possible delay in language acquisition will be made by a specialist. With early diagnosis and intervention, it’s possible to avoid any lasting effects.
  • Speech delay: This can be observed in terms of both expression and comprehension.
  • Infant dyslalia: This is diagnosed when the child isn’t able to correctly pronounce sounds due to structural alterations of the organs that we use to speak.
  • Childhood aphonia: A common problem in children and young people is the inability to produce certain sounds. This can be caused by illness or by abnormal speech patterns.
  • Pronunciation difficulties: There are some sounds that children typically learn to pronounce later than others. However, some children have particular difficulties articulating sounds such as the letter “R” (rhotacism) or the “S” sound (commonly known as a lisp).
  • Infant deafness: Some children are born with damage to their outer, middle or inner ear, or their auditory nerve. This makes it difficult for them to hear and understand spoken language.
How to Detect Language Disorders in Children

Breathing and speech are closely connected. If children know how to control their breathing, this will help them express themselves effectively.

Poor breathing can be linked to respiratory disorders, which also affect speech. Some disorders, such as aphonia and vocal cord injuries, may be caused by abnormal breathing technique.

When a child is breathing incorrectly, they inhale less air. This gives their voice less power, and makes it more difficult for them to produce a full range of sounds.

“Illnesses such as laryngitis and pharyngitis can be caused by not breathing correctly”

Language difficulties in children can usually be detected early and treated in time to avoid any lasting effects.

Pay close attention as your child begins to speak. If you notice anything unusual, speak to their doctor about the best measures to take.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.