Receptive language is the ability to understand both nonverbal (e.g. gestures) and verbal language. This includes the ability to understand the meaning of words, concepts (e.g. big/little, hot/cold, first/last, etc.), questions, and figurative language.
Children with receptive language delays or disorders may have difficulty following directions, difficulty with reading comprehension, difficulty sequencing events, and difficulty understanding spoken or written language.
Expressive language refers to the use or output of language. This includes the use of a variety of words and how those words are put together to form phrases, sentences, and stories.
Children with expressive language delays or disorders may have a limited expressive vocabulary, poor grammar skills, difficulty defining and describing words, and difficulty producing complete sentences.
The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) lists some early signs to help determine if your child may have a language disorder:
- Doesn’t smile or interact with others (birth–3 months)
- Doesn’t babble (4–7 months)
- Makes few sounds (7–12 months)
- Does not use gestures (e.g., waving, pointing) (7–12 months)
- Doesn’t understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
- Says only a few words (12–18 months)
- Doesn’t put words together to make sentences (1½–3 years)
- Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2–3 years)
- Has problems with early reading and writing skills-for example, may not show an interest in books or drawing (2½–3 years)
ASHA states that “any speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child’s social and academic skills and behavior. The earlier a child’s speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships.”