Language Disorders


What is a Developmental Language Disorder?

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is characterized by difficulties in understanding and using language, that may or may not occur with known conditions such as Down syndrome. Language disorders are not about the inability to speak clearly or make sounds. Language disorders may persist across a lifespan, and symptoms may change over time. There are three types of language difficulties:

  • Expressive language difficulties: Difficulty putting words together into sentences that make sense.
  • Receptive language difficulties: Difficulty understanding the meaning of what others say, and thus respond in ways that may not make sense.
  • Mixed receptive-expressive language difficulties: Difficulty with both using and understanding language.

How to Recognize a Developmental Language Disorder

A language disorder is diagnosed when a child's language skills are below the expected level for their age. DLD can interfere with a child's ability to communicate effectively. For example, expressive language may be simplified with non-specific words and use of shorter sentences despite the expectation of more complex language at their age. E.g "She write paper" instead of "That girl is writing on my paper".

Other early signs are delayed learning and acquisition in areas like phonology (speech sounds), grammar, and pragmatics (social communication). Developmental Language Disorder can continue into adulthood, resulting in difficulty organizing verbal information, telling stories, and explaining things in a clear way.

Due to how wide ranging and encompassing language disorders can be, it is recommended to see a Speech Language Pathologist if you suspect your child has language difficulties.

Acquired Language Disorder

Language Disorders can also be caused by brain injury or illness, called acquired language disorders. For adults, a language disorder is common after traumatic brain injury, stroke, or old age.

Aphasia is an acquired neurogenic language disorder resulting from brain injury or illness. Typically it occurs from a stroke or head injury, though it can also be a result of gradual damage caused by a progressing tumor or disease. It is characterized by impairment to spoken language expression, spoken language comprehension, written expression, and reading comprehension. Essentially, aphasia can affect the ability to write, speak, and understand language.

How to Recognize Aphasia

The person may have difficulty using the right words. This could look like:

  • Pausing and not recalling the word they're trying to use.
  • Substituting words that don't make sense. E.g., Trying to say 'cheese', but saying 'cheat', 'chocolate' or a non-word like 'shobble'.