receptive language disorder

What is receptive language disorder?


One of the greatest joys for parents is to see their child speak their first words, take their first step. As a child grows they start understanding more and talking in sentences. But if they don’t start speaking, it will lead to frustration for kids as well as parents. Delay or deviancy in speaking and understanding is called language disorder or language delay.

According to ASHA, speech and language issues are highest among 3-6 years old. Often parents apply the approach of waiting and watching. If the delay persists into school years, it will cause academic and social problems. Addressing this problem early on is crucial. It is necessary to create a language-rich environment for kids. This is to foster their speech and language skills. However, some kids even with this support fail to catch up.

In this blog, we will explain what the types of language disorders are. We will explain its causes, signs, and how you can help your child. There are two types of language disorders receptive language disorder and expressive language disorder. In this blog, we will discuss receptive language disorder (RLD).

What is a receptive language disorder?

Receptive language is nothing but the understanding skills of kids. This refers to the understanding of words, phrases, and sentences in both spoken and written form. Kids need to understand language before they can speak. For example, if you say to your child, give the ball. They should understand the word give and ball. They should follow the direction. Another example can be, if you say it’s time for a bath, a toddler will get excited or run to the bathroom or run away from the bathroom if he/she does not like bathing. For school-age kids, understanding language is following complex commands. They should also be able to understand the teacher.

Understanding is also present in body language; the tone of voice and in the environment. A child will understand they are going out if parents have keys in their hand and are pointing towards the door.

These are important as they help kids to respond to others. Successful interaction depends on comprehension. With no understanding, a child cannot respond appropriately. It will also look like the child is being rude or exhibiting bad behavior. It will lead to a breakdown in communication.

A child with a receptive language disorder has difficulty understanding what you have said. For example, if you ask them to bring a glass or plate. If they don’t know what is glass and plate then they might not be able to follow the given command. The signs and symptoms vary. For some kids, it may be severe or for some, it may be mild. Problems with understanding begin before age of 3 years. In most cases, children with understanding difficulty also have a problem in expressing themselves. This is called expressive language disorder.

Read about speech delay vs language delay here

Signs and symptoms of receptive language disorder

To have good receptive language skills a child needs normal hearing and auditory processing. They need to have attention, memory, understanding of different words, inference skills, and grammar.

If your 18 month old cannot follow simple commands, then they have a receptive language delay. A 2-year-old not responding to name calls, won’t point to different objects, and cannot bring familiar items on request looks like a receptive delay. It is hard to conclude regarding a delay without an SLP’s assessment. But, these are some warning signs. It may look like they are disobeying, not listening to you, being stubborn. Remember they are not choosing to disobey, they haven’t understood. Following are some more signs:

  • Not listening or responding
  • Not pointing or bringing daily use objects
  • Difficulty following direction
  • Identifying objects and pictures and other age-appropriate vocabularies
  • Difficulty responding to questions

Causes and diagnosis of receptive language disorder:

There are various causes of RLD. However, these may not apply to everyone. Every child is different. Here are some causes:

  • Hearing impairment
  • Genetic disorder
  • Other developmental disorders such as ASD, Down’s syndrome, or brain injury
  • Cognitive delay
  • Reduced exposure to language in day to day environment
  • Complications during pregnancy

Diagnosis is done by hearing testing, formal assessment by an SLP based on parent interview and observation of the child. A formal test is done. This compares the observation to the age-appropriate normative data. This means whether the child is following the milestones or typical development.

Treatment and ways to help:

Once the diagnosis is done, one-to-one speech therapy sessions with SLP are started. Parents’ involvement in therapy is a must for maximum improvement. The treatment plan for each child is tailor-made according to their needs and deficits. A child’s progress will depend on a variety of factors. Such as parents’ involvement, the severity of the delay, etc.

Some advice for the parents:

  1. Engage your child in play and conversation. It’s okay if they are not responding to you verbally. Sometimes it may be a gestural response. The point is to model the correct response. Observe their eye contact, eye tracking, and gazing. See if they are learning to engage and attempting to understand and learn.
  2. Pay attention to the way you are speaking with your child. Toddlers with RLD need specific and focused teaching to link words with an object, people, or events.
  3. Simplify your sentences but use correct grammar. Use single words and short phrases. For example instead of saying do you want this pink ice cream which mummy bought? Instead, just holds up the ice cream and ask want an ice cream? If you don’t a language and someone is speaking in big sentences you will get irritated. This is the same feeling for kids. So use simple sentences to reduce the frustration and improve the understanding.
  4. Make language more visual, talk and name objects which he is playing with or what you are doing. For example, while he is eating, you can say, here comes the ‘spoon’, put stress on the word ‘spoon’. Your ‘cereal’. Keep the conversation here and now. Don’t talk about the weather or daycare.
  5. When possible, show him the object. Provide as many visual cues as possible in form of picture books or real objects.
Some more ways
  1. Repetition is the key. Repeat, repeat the words actions, and visual input. But in an interesting format, not the same way every day.
  2. Allow him/her to show that he understands. Often we get carried away in teaching so much that we forget to wait and see if they have understood or not. For example, you can say ‘show me the dog’ in the picture book. Ask him to bring an object. Short directions such as come here, give me, etc.
  3. Pause frequently and let him process what you are saying instead of bombarding continuously. Count to 5 before describing or moving on to the next object.

To conclude, have fun playing with your child and set realistic expectations. Get a professional opinion before trying out anything. Contact us today for best online speech therapy in india.

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