What is a Language Disorder?

Simply put, a language disorder is impaired comprehension of spoken, written, and/or other symbol systems.

Language involves the use of words in order to share ideas with others and to get what we want. A child with a language disorder may have problems understanding, talking, reading and writing. 

Language can be broken down into:

Language Form:

  • Phonology is the sound system of a language and the rules that govern the sound combinations.

  • Morphology is the system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms.

  • Syntax is the system governing the order and combination of words to form sentences and the relationships among the elements within a sentence.

Language content

  • Semantics is the system that governs the meanings of words and sentences.

Language Function

  • In short, it means appropriate use of language in social situation.

Indicators for Preschool Language Disorders

Receptive Language Issues:

Children who have difficulty understanding language have receptive language problems. This is not an all-inclusive list but examples include difficulties in:

  • Following directions
  • Understanding questions
  • Point to objects and pictures when requested to do so
  • Answering questions
  • Verbal turn taking which is knowing how to take turns when speaking with others.

Expressive Language Issues:

Children who have problems talking or expressing what they want to say have expressive language disorders. A sampling of early warning signs include weaknesses or delay in:  

  • Asking questions
  • Using correct pronouns i.e., “I, he, she, they
  • Errors in grammar including verb tense   
  • Naming objects
  • Putting words toget her to form sentences
  • Learning songs and nursery rhymes
  • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going

Receptive and Expressive Issues:

Children can have difficulty with both understanding and talking. Children with receptive and expressive language issues may have problems with early reading and writing skills, including:

  • Holding a book right side up
  • Looking at pictures in a book and appropriately turning pages
  • Telling a story in the correct sequence (beginning, middle, end)
  • Naming the alphabet letters and number
  • Understanding and recalling the sound/symbol correlation between a letter and its sound.

Treatment for Language Disorders

Contacting a speech pathologist and having an evaluation would be most prudent to determine if language intervention services are needed. You can also contact Early Intervention Services in your county for services (0-3 years of age)  If your child is school aged, reach out to your local school district and request an evaluation.


For More Information on  Language Disorders

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association