Late Talker or Receptive Language Delay?
Are you concerned that your child isn't talking as much as you think he should be by his age? Are other children in your playgroup talking a lot more and putting words together more easily and following directions better? There might be more going on than just "he's not picking up words" or "he's just a late talker." A receptive language delay/disorder may be an underlying factor in why your child is not picking up words as easily as other children around him.
Late talkers often have a receptive language disorder that is overlooked. It makes sense that a chid can't use words that he doesn't understand. Words don't make sense to a child who is not understanding fully the meaning behind the words.
Children who have difficulty understanding language or processing language have difficulty following directions. This can easily be mis-diagnosed as a behavior problem both at home and at preschool or day care. You might think that your child understands just fine because he understands many words. The breakdown typically occurs, however, when it's all put together in longer utterances and when simple nouns that your child may know individually are combined with adjectives and verbs and prepositional phrases.
Some characteristics of children with comprehension or processing problems include the following:
- repeating the last couple words of a question instead of answering it
- ignoring questions
- not following more than a single step direction
- giving off target (unrelated) responses to questions
- shaking head for yes or no instead of answering
- may understand the individual words and vocabulary, but not when it's all put together in a longer direction or question
If this sounds like your child, I strongly encourage you to have your child evaluated by a speech/language pathologist or early intervention specialist. Click here to learn more about this process. The earlier your child receives intervention for this, the better off he'll be and the chances of overcoming this specific delay with be greater.
Ways you as parents can help at home:
- teach your child how to use words and what they mean - instead of just teaching them to say words
- teach words in context and generalize across many contexts (if you're talking about the word "shoe", use the word when you are tying his shoes and when you are putting your shoes on and when you go to a shoe store and see shoes or when you look at a book with your child and come across shoes, etc.)
- exaggerate words and actions while teaching meaning
- exaggerate vowels instead of consonants (b-a-a-a-l instead of b-b-bal)
- when giving a direction, break it way down if necessary
- shorten your sentences when giving directions and asking questions
- model the answer to help them learn how to respond and what you're expecting
- tell your child to do something - if he doesn't do it or doesn't understand, show him and then if necessary physically assist him
- don't just teach your child nouns, also teach verbs (action words), adjectives (descriptive words) and prepositions (location words)
In a subsequent post, I will address asking and answering questions with your child and what types of questions should be mastered by what ages.
I hope this article has been helpful. Please fill in below with any comments or questions you may have on this topic.