Expressive Language Disorder

Language disorders affect about 5% of children in the world today. There are two types of disorders, receptive and expressive. Receptive language disorders focus on the understanding of words, phrases, questions, and commands while expressive language disorders involve how a child expresses words, phrases, questions, and commands.

Expressive language in general is the proper use of the spoken, written, and non-verbal gestures that convey what a person wants to communicate to others. This is a very complex system of articulating expression that requires a considerable amount of ability to accomplish.

It takes years for children to master expressive language from the time they are born until the age of four or five years old. It takes a combination of the brain developing and the child picking up the language of their surroundings so they can properly express themselves.

The importance of expression cannot be overlooked as it allows people to express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and desires in a manner that is understood by others through verbal, non-verbal, and written language. However, when expression does not develop properly it provides obstacles to the overall development of the child.

What is Expressive Language Disorder?

While all the causes of this disorder are still not fully understood, it can be stated that this type of disorder is the lower than normal expectation for a child to express words, sentences, and phrases in a manner that can be understood. Put simple, they understand what they are told, but respond in a way that seems disconnected because of their lack of expressive development.

The symptoms of this type of disorder may vary, but they all have the same thing in common. The child cannot express themselves in a manner that matches their thoughts and feelings;

  • Lower than average vocabulary skills
  • Using the wrong tenses in words, meaning the past, present, and future
  • Difficulty with expressing complex sentences
  • Problems with remembering words

The causes are often due to the lack of development in the brain perhaps because of malnutrition, injury, or some type of damage that inhibits the proper growth and development. Heredity may also play a factor, but more research is needed.


Tests must be performed to determine if the expressive language disorder is actual or is it just a slower than normal development. Once it is determined that the child needs treatment, the next step in the process is instituting individual language therapy that treats the disorder in a straightforward manner.

By expanding the number of phrases children use, associating them with the right questions, commands, or responses, and being repetitive so that the lessons are remembered, the speech pathologist can help the child overcome their expressive language disorder.

Every child reacts differently when it comes to treatment. Plus, other factors such as vitamin deficiency may need to be addressed as well. In most cases, the child will catch up and develop their expressive skills normally thanks to the additional training provided by the professionals. Keep in mind that good nutrition, a happy home, and early focus on talking to your child in terms of getting the appropriate response can all help in the development of their expressive language skills.

Consult with an Expert Speech or Occupational Therapist