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Types of language difficulty

Although there are many types of difficulty in speech and language, there are three important types that are associated with specific learning difficulties. These are expressive language difficulty, receptive language (comprehension) difficulty, and verbal dyspraxia.

Expressive language difficulty

This is the commonest language difficulty. It may be a result of a variety of blocks in the stages of language production.

Typically, the child’s speech sounds immature for his age, with difficulties naming things. He may omit words from sentences and mix the order of words. His written language will also show these features (Figure 9.1).

Children with expressive language difficulties are often frustrated by their difficulties in expressing themselves, and may be shy and withdrawn. Some become short tempered because of their frustration. Expressive language difficulties are often associated with reading difficulties.

It is essential that any child with suspected expressive language delay has an assessment by a speech therapist. The therapist will test the child’s receptive and expressive language. He or she may also want a sample of the child’s spontaneous language at home. Parents may, therefore, be asked to make a tape recording of their child’s speech in an everyday situation.

Once the speech therapist has analysed the child’s difficulties and developed a picture of his language, he or she can plan a programme to help the child. Most speech therapists will want to see the child for regular therapy sessions. These usually take place once a week or once a fortnight.

The therapist will tailor the programme to the child’s needs. This usually involves showing the child objects and pictures, which he names or talks about.

Expressive language disorder (nine-year-old boy)

Figure 9.1 Expressive language disorder (nine-year-old boy).

Games and exercises involving certain words and grammatical structures are worked on, and there is training in sentence construction. The nature of the help will depend on the child’s specific difficulties.

How parents can help

The speech therapist will tell you what to do at home. Often he or she will give you a book, or sheets of paper, with games and activities to play. These should be carried out with a sense of fun and plenty of praise for effort. You will also be told how to encourage the child to carry over what he is learning into everyday conversation. Try to use those particular language structures that your child is learning as much as possible in your own speech to serve as an example (model) for him.

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