Expressive Language Disorder: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Expressive Language Disorder

What is expressive language disorder?

Expressive language disorder is a chronic illness that affects one’s ability to communicate. People who suffer from this language disorder are able to comprehend what others are saying.

When they talk, though, they face difficulty in expressing their own thoughts. It’s important to note that expressive language illness is not the same as a speech disorder. It has no impact on how individuals pronounce words. It’s also not a question of intellect.

Children with expressive language disorders have trouble communicating or expressing themselves through speech, writing, sign language or gestures. (Because preschool children have not yet begun formal schooling, they do not have the same problem expressing themselves in writing.)

In the first three years, some children lag behind their classmates in achieving normal language milestones, but they ultimately catch up. These kids are often referred to as ‘late-talkers.’ If a child’s verbal expression continues to be a problem, they may be diagnosed with expressive language illness or another language disability.

Read: Learning Disorder

Cause of expressive language disorder

The causes of expressive language disorder in many youngsters are unknown. Some children have problems with language development alone, although their other developmental milestones are on track. For some children, expressive language disorder is linked to a history of developmental delays or disabilities (for example, autism, hearing loss or down syndrome).

Most children with expressive language disorder also have a receptive language issue, which means they have trouble understanding language.

Expressive language disorder may be genetic (from birth) or acquired (as adults) (occurs after a period of normal development). It may be caused by trauma (such as a head injury) or a medical condition. According to research, expressive language disorder may affect more than one family member and span generations.

Related: Communication Disorders


If your kid is having trouble communicating or expressing themselves via language, it is critical that you:

  • A speech pathologist will evaluate their language abilities (sometimes referred to as a speech therapist)
  • Get their hearing checked as quickly as possible by an audiologist

(An appointment with a speech pathologist or audiologist does not need a recommendation from your doctor, but you may request one if you wish.)

Speech pathologists do specialized evaluations to determine which aspects of language are challenging for a kid. These evaluations are not traumatic for the kid, and parents are typically present throughout them.

Speech therapists may also suggest:

  • An assessment of auditory processing (this is different from a standard hearing test)
  • A test to see whether you have any learning problems (for school-aged children)
  • A registered psychologist evaluates cognitive function (thinking and intellect)

Read: Thought Disorder

Symptoms of expressive language disorder

Children with expressive language disorder have trouble putting words together to create whole phrases and sentences. A kid, for example, may not use the proper form of the verb tense (saying ‘I goed’ when they mean ‘I went’) or miss key grammatical phrases (saying ‘I doing’ when they intend ‘I am doing’).

They speak in shorter phrases and sentences than other children their age, and their vocabulary (the number of words they know and use) is smaller and more basic.

Children with expressive language disorder are often below average for their age in the following areas:

  • Combining words and phrases to convey ideas and concepts
  • Remembering words
  • Utilizing proper words in a variety of situations with a range of individuals (for example, in school, at home, with parents and teachers).

The following are some examples of expressive language impairment:

  • A seven-year-old kid who cannot connect statements with words like “and,” “but,” or “if” (for example, “I went to the movies”). I ate popcorn’ rather than ‘I went to the movies and ate popcorn,’ which is a more mature phrase.
  • A three-year-old kid who exclusively uses two-word sentences (for example, “mommy vehicle” when they mean “That’s mummy’s car”).

The symptoms of expressive language disorder vary from kid to child and are dependent on the age of the child and the severity of the impairment. The following are some examples of common symptoms:

  • Grammatical mistakes, gaps, and weak or incomplete sentence patterns (for example, ‘He going school’ instead of ‘He’s going to school’ and ‘I speak’ instead of ‘I can talk’).
  • Compared to youngsters of a similar age, they use much fewer words and phrases
  • Compared to youngsters of a similar age, they use shorter, simpler sentence structure
  • Having a smaller and more simple vocabulary than other youngsters their age
  • Having difficulty finding the correct word regularly
  • Using non-specific language like “this” or “that”
  • Using the incorrect words in phrases or confusing the meaning of sentences
  • Depending on conventional words and communication with little substance
  • Sounding hesitant while trying to speak
  • Repeating (or ‘echoing’) the words of a speaker
  • Talking in circles or not being able to get to the point
  • Having trouble presenting a narrative or transmitting facts in a logical or consistent manner
  • Unable to initiate or maintain a conversation
  • Not following the general communication guidelines
  • Experiencing trouble with spoken and written work, as well as academic tasks

Read: What is Consciousness

Treatment for expressive language disorder

The severity of the impairment determines the treatment choices. The following expressive language disorder treatments may be used:

  • Group sessions with a speech pathologist
  • Sessions with a speech pathologist on an individual basis
  • Language intervention initiatives in schools
  • Help from special education instructors
  • Support from a teacher’s assistant for children with significant language impairment
  • Sessions with a speech therapist are coupled with home programs that parents may utilize with their children.

Strategies for parents

Behavior is a form of communication, so it is helpful to remember that. When a child has expressive language disorder, they may act out when they are unable to express their thoughts or feelings through language.

It is important to make communication easier for your child so that they can work through their frustration.

A sullen student might be upset after failing a math test, losing their favorite eraser, and dropping their lunch. Trying to explain what is wrong may further frustrate them if you ask, “what is wrong?”.

Consider asking a series of simpler questions instead:

  • Is there something at school that upsets you?
  • Is there one thing that upset you, or are there more than one?
  • Do you remember if it happened during recess or in class?
  • Do you remember what it was about? Was it schoolwork?

You should continue talking about your child’s day until you’ve narrowed it down enough that the child feels relaxed discussing it.

It is easier to have a successful conversation when you ask specific questions. It is a simple but effective way to encourage your child to interact with you and with other children in two-way conversations.

The more open-ended questions you ask, the more advanced your child will be in his or her language skills. Your child will be able to optimize their progress if you do this. It’s also a good idea to reinforce your child’s improved speaking skills by saying, “you explained that well” or “it makes sense what you said.”

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