Language (Receptive/Expressive)

Early warning signs of a language delay or impairment

  • The child may use first words according to age criteria but does not seem to add words to his/her vocabulary as expected.
  • The child uses jargon or nonsense speech sounds instead of using real words.
  • The child's language skills are less developed than children who are younger.
  • The child continues to primarily use gestures such as pointing to request objects past 18 months of age.
  • The child does not imitate sounds or single words spoken by the parent in an effort to develop language.
  • The child gets very frustrated when he or she cannot make you understand what he / she wants. The child does not respond to directions, as do other children of comparable age.
  • The child seems to respfond and follow through with commands when he or she wants to do so, but not consistently and not always for others.
  • The child seems to understand language in the home environment, but has difficulty responding to questions from an outsider.
  • The child may present a strong-willed personality and seem difficult to discipline in addition to having limited language.

Any single warning sign does not imply that a child has a problem. It does indicate that possible evaluation may be warranted.

Language delay versus language impairment
Often when a child is slow in developing language skills, the child is said to have a language delay. Many times, this may actually be the case. The child may have an older sibling who speaks for him. The parents may meet every need of the child, excusing him/her from having to use language. There may be physical problems causing the child to be slower in acquiring language. If a child presents a true language delay, then the child should eventually "catch up" with peers in regard to language skills. However, sometimes, there is a language impairment present. This means that there is something within the child's language system that is not working properly; therefore, preventing the child from developing language annually. With therapy, these children make tremendous improvement and often develop within normal language skills. Once an evaluation is conducted, the exact nature of the problem can be identified.

What to do
When a child presents warning signs of language delay or impairment, it is appropriate to schedule an evaluation with a speech/language pathologist. Speech/language pathologists see children at a very young age to determine if possible problems exist. If the parent suspects any type of language problem or feels any concern over language development, it is always wise to schedule an evaluation. Therapy is not always recommended; however, parents are always counseled as to ways to stimulate language development. If prior hearing or audiological testing has not been completed, this evaluation is also recommended.

If you feel that your child may present a language delay or language impairment, you or your pediatrician may schedule an evaluation. Please call the Patient Scheduling at 205-638-9141 to make the appointment.