Language disorders can be divided into two main parts:

  • Receptive language
  • Expressive language

Now, every speech pathologist will tell you that a receptive language delay is difficulty with language comprehension and an expressive language delay is difficulty with verbal expression.

Sometimes all the medical jargon leaves you scratching your head and saying "okay…" but with no real understanding of what the problem is. Let me break it down for you:


##Receptive Language Receptive language can mainly be thought of as "listening". That means we're looking at the way someone understands what they hear or read (language isn't always verbal, sometimes it's written, or body cues). Receptive language is also frequently referred to as language comprehension.

Now that we know what receptive language is, we can figure out what a delay in this area is. In the simplest terms, it's that your child has difficulty understanding. It's best to talk to your Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) as to what specific areas your child has difficulty with, as no two people are alike. After an assessment, your therapist should be able to explain how these difficulties affect your child.

Receptive language is a precursor to expressive language. Basically, if you do not understand something, quantum physics, for example, you won't be able to talk much about it. In this way, receptive language delays are frequently seen with expressive language delays.


##Expressive Language Expressive language can be thought of as talking. It's the part of language that deals with how someone is able to express (through talking, writing, or in other non-verbal ways) what they want to say. Expressive language can further be broken down into form, content, and use. Form refers to the "way" someone speaks, like grammatical rules. Content refers to what someone can actually express, such as a full idea (i.e. "I want a cookie, please" instead of "cookie"). Use covers a larger area related to pragmatics, such as knowing how to be polite or make a demand, or knowing how intonation affects what is said, such as sarcasm.

Now that we know what expressive language is, we can talk about delays in this area. Unfortunately, as expressive language encompasses many aspects of language, this is hard to sum up in a few words. Difficulties in this area can take on many forms, from an inability to say a grammatically complete sentence or use different tenses (both difficulties with the form of language), to difficulty using more than one word in a sentence or explaining what an item is (difficulties with content), even to difficulty with understanding multiple meaning words (like "cool," for instance) or being able to alter a sentence into a different structure, like a question.

Once again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to your SLP regarding your child's specific difficulties. A speech and language assessment is designed to expose each individual's strengths and weaknesses in communication. I can only provide a general concept, as I do not know each individual child; however, your local SLP would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have regarding your situation.

Language-based activity ideas:

Language development through books
The Kitchen: recipes for language development
Car Games
5 Minute Activities
Up Up Down Down
Summertime Picnics
Language in the Summer Sun
Home Prepositions
Board Games for Therapy
Toss and Talk Language
Categorizing with Toys
Easy Sensory Activity
Monster Box Craft
Monster Sort
Following the Leader
Halloween Language Activities

Posted by on 2012-07-20 02:36:44. Last updated: 2012-12-29 06:34:19.