Mikee Larrazabal 6 min read

Receptive Language Disorder and how can you help your child?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who seems to not be listening to you? Or does your child have difficulties understanding what people are saying to them? They may be suffering from a receptive language disorder. Receptive language disorders can make it difficult for people to understand and use language. This can impact many aspects of life, from academic performance to social interactions. Thankfully, there are ways that parents and professionals can help children with receptive language disorders improve their communication skills. Read more to learn about receptive language impairments.

What is a receptive language disorder?

A receptive language disorder is an impairment in the comprehension of a spoken, written, gestural, and/or another symbol system. Children with a receptive language impairment may experience difficulties with understanding words, phrases, and/or sentences that make it difficult to make conversations with peers. Additionally, these difficulties may make it hard to follow along in class or complete schoolwork.

Receptive language

There are a few different types of receptive language disorders, which include:

  • Auditory processing disorder: This is a difficulty with understanding words despite having normal hearing. It may sound like the child is “tuning out” or not paying attention when in reality they cannot process what is being said.
  • Semantic-pragmatic disorder: This type of receptive language disorder is characterized by difficulty understanding the meaning of words and phrases, as well as difficulty using social language. For example, a child with this disorder may have trouble following a conversation, because they cannot understand what is being said. Additionally, they may have trouble using appropriate gestures and facial expressions during conversations.
  • Phonological processing disorder: This type of receptive language impairment is characterized by difficulty understanding the sound structure of words. For example, a child with this disorder may have trouble distinguishing between the sounds “b” and “p”, which can make it difficult to understand words that contain those sounds.

What are the symptoms of a receptive language disorder?

The symptoms of a receptive language disorder will vary depending on the type of disorder. However, some common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty understanding words, phrases, and/or sentences
  • Difficulty following along in class or completing schoolwork
  • Trouble making conversations with peers
  • Inappropriate use of gestures and facial expressions during conversations
  • Difficulty following instructions and commands
  • Having a hard time answering questions for speech therapy

What causes a receptive language disorder?

The cause of a receptive language disorder is not always known. However, it is believed that some disorders may be caused by an auditory processing disorder or a phonological processing disorder. Among these disorders are:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Down syndrome

Additionally, some disorders may be caused by damage to the brain from an injury or illness.

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How is a receptive language disorder diagnosed?

Receptive language disorder

A receptive language disorder is typically diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist. This professional will assess the child’s understanding of spoken, written, and/or gestural language in different contexts. Aside from assessing your child’s understanding, an SLP will also assess your child’s expressive language. Additionally, they will observe the child’s ability to use social language skills. Based on this assessment, the speech therapist will plan a specific intervention to address the different needs of each patient.

What is the prognosis for children with receptive language disorder?

The prognosis for children with receptive language disorder varies depending on the type and severity of the disorder. However, with early intervention and proper treatment, most children make significant progress in their receptive language skills.

How to help a child with receptive language disorder

Speech-language pathologists will typically recommend a specific therapy plan to help a child with a receptive language impairment. This plan will be based on the individual needs of the child. Some common interventions include:

Auditory processing goals

This type of intervention focuses on helping the child to understand commands despite having an auditory processing disorder. An SLP will introduce simple to complex commands and instructions for children to understand. For example, they may start with commands such as “put the block on the table” and progress to more complex commands such as “find the toy that is under the couch”. Aside from commands, auditory processing goals also include questions for speech therapy. For example, an SLP may ask the child “what color is the chair?” to help them understand how to answer questions.

Language therapy goals

This type of intervention focuses on helping the child understand spoken, written, and/or gestural language. An SLP will introduce different concepts to the child to increase his/her vocabulary. This will make a huge difference in your child’s current understanding and future success.

Pragmatic training and goals

Receptive language impairment

This type of intervention focuses on teaching the child how to use social language skills such as eye contact, turn-taking, and facial expressions. Children with a receptive language disorder may have difficulties socializing with peers. That is why pragmatic training is essential to help them understand and use social language skills.

Phonological training

This type of intervention focuses on teaching the child the sound structure of words. Children with receptive language impairment may also have difficulties reading and writing. Phonological training can help them understand the sound structure of words and be able to read and write better.

If you think your child may have a receptive language disorder, it is important to seek out professional help. A speech-language pathologist will be able to assess your child’s language skills and develop a therapy plan to address their specific needs.

Tips for parents of children with receptive language disorder

While it is important to seek professional help, there are also some things that parents can do at home to help their children.

Here are some tips:

Speech Therapy
  • Encourage your child to participate in daily conversations. At home, children have many opportunities to practice their receptive language skills. Try to include your child in conversations as much as possible. For example, when you are making dinner, ask your child to help you set the table. This will give them a chance to practice following instructions.
  • Read books aloud to your child and ask them questions about the story. Reading books will give your child an opportunity to learn new vocabulary, practice following a story, and answer questions. You can also point to pictures and ask your child “what’s this?” to help them practice identifying objects.
  • Play games that focus on following directions, such as Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light. You can also ask your child different household chores such as “can you please put your shoes away?”. These activities will help your child practice following instructions.
  • Make sure to give your child plenty of time to answer questions.
  • Avoid talking too fast or using words that are too complicated. When you talk to your child, use simple words and short sentences. This will help your child understand you better.
  • Be patient and encourage your child often. It is important to be patient when communicating with your child. They are still learning and it may take some time for them to understand what you are saying. Encourage your child often and let them know that you are proud of their progress.

If you think your child may have a receptive language disorder, it is important to seek out professional help. A speech-language pathologist will be able to assess your child’s language skills and develop a therapy plan to address their specific needs. Contact us now!