Better Speech 3 min read

What is Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder in Children?

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder occurs in children more often than you may think. The symptoms may take a while to appear. And the sooner you start treatment, the better the results will be.

Language disorder

Children need to develop physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills in order to speak. When one or more of these isn’t properly developed, it can cause a language disorder. The disorder can be receptive, expressive or mixed.

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is a condition that commonly affects children. Currently, specialists estimate that 1 in 20 kids have some type of language disorder. Generally, you can start to see symptoms after age You should treat it with the help of a professional speech therapist for kids.

What is “receptive” language disorder?

Receptive language disorder is where there is a problem interpreting spoken language, i.e., with receiving the language. You may see children with receptive language disorder appear to “tune out” when people are talking, or having trouble following directions. However, this doesn’t stop children from learning to communicate. They often learn to communicate in their own way.

What is “expressive” language disorder?

Expressive language disorder is where it’s hard sending or expressing a message, and making yourself understood. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t understand what someone else is saying.

A mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is both of these.

For mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, it’s the sum of both of these disorders. Children with this disorder have difficulty in both understanding messages, plus difficulty expressing themselves through language.

This can make communication very difficult. As you know, communicating is based on understanding and being understood.

Speech therapy for child and adult

Language disorders vs developmental issues.

Sometimes it’s common to confuse language disorders with developmental problems. However, these are two different things. Although it’s true that these disorders can be associated with some developmental problems, they aren’t the only cause.

Often, it’s not possible to identify the specific cause of mixed language disorder in kids. In these cases, you need to talk with your doctor. Usually these symptoms start in childhood. This is when kids’ bodies are growing physically and mentally. Most kids learn language completely naturally.

Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder Symptoms

As we’ve mentioned, the first signs of language disorders usually appear around age 3. When we talk about mixed disorders, these may include one or more symptoms:

  • Learning difficulties. Children with mixed language disorders usually have learning problems. This is because learning is based mostly on communication.
  • Issues with following directions. The main difficulty is though oral language.
  • Problems organizing and summarizing thoughts or emotions. It’s difficult to form coherent sentences.
  • Social disfunction. A child who has trouble communicating may also experience trouble playing with other kids. In some cases, researchers see that social problems lead to behavioral problems or depression.
  • Difficulties forming sentences. Some children can make very short and incomplete sentences to try and express themselves. However, others can make sentences that don’t connect words well. These are difficult to understand.
  • Challenges in school. The consequences of learning difficulties are low school performance and not wanting to go to school. Also, their intellectual progress is lower than in other children.

Treating mixed receptive-expressive language disorder requires professional help from a speech therapist and speech therapy is one of the best ways to treat it.

If a family is concerned about their child’s communication development, a consultation with a speech–language pathologist is recommended. General guidelines for when to schedule an evaluation include when a child:

  • Does not use single words by 15 months
  • Does not use 50 words or 2-word phrases (ex. “more cookie”) by 24 months
  • Does not follow two-step directions (ex. “Get your coat and shoes”) by two years of age
  • Is not understood 90% of the time when speaking by four years old or is easily frustrated because others cannot understand him/her
  • Has difficulty interacting with kids their age
  • Has difficulty with memory or problem solving

What to expect during a language evaluation

During a language evaluation, the speech language pathologist will collect information about your child’s medical history, developmental milestones, and your current concerns. Depending on your child’s age and communication skills, the speech-language pathologist may also:

  • Engage your child in conversation
  • Collect a language sample while your child is playing
  • Administer standardized language testing which typically involves identifying pictures, following directions, answering questions, and describing pictures
  • Ask your child to follow directions of increasing complexity
  • Ask your child to answer questions about stories he/she read or was read to him/her

Results and recommendations will be discussed at the end of the evaluation. If appropriate, language therapy will be recommended and home activities will be discussed and demonstrated.