Receptive Language Disorders

There are two types of language disorders, expressive and receptive. While the expressive disorder is focused on how words and phrases are delivered by the child, a receptive disorder is about the understanding that the child has about the meaning of words, phrases, and gestures.

This is more than just vocabulary skills as it is the ability to interpret the information that is spoken to them. This includes the understanding of concepts, interpreting questions and phrases. Most children will develop their receptive skills first before their expressive skills start to take hold. In addition, many children will lag in what is considered average in terms of their receptive and expressive language skills.

However, when it becomes obvious that there are issues with receptive language disorders, then treatment must be sought out to make the necessary corrections. About 5% of children have a language disorder that requires treatment.


There are several different causes, although language disorders in general are not fully understood. There are a few causes that have been documented which affect language and speech skills.

  • Lack of Prenatal Nutrients: A lack of folic acid in the diet has been attributed to diminished language skills of their unborn child
  • Heredity: It is believed up to 40% of cases have a family history
  • Premature Birth
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism

There are other disabilities which either cause or contribute to receptive language disorders. However, there are many cases in which the cause has yet to be determined.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Because some children naturally lag in the development of their speech and language skills, they should be separated from those who have an actual disorder. The signs that your child may have a receptive language disorder include the following;

  • 15 Months: Does not recognize familiar people or objects when named
  • 18 Months: Does not follow directions
  • 24 Months: Cannot point to or draw a picture of a named body part
  • 30 Months: Does not respond properly to questions
  • 36 Months: Does not follow more complex directions or does not understand certain words.

If your child demonstrates any of these traits with no signs of improvement, they will need assistance. You should seek out an evaluation from a recognized speech therapist or speech-language pathologist for a proper diagnosis. You can seek assistance from those who hold private practices or from state-systems

For those who qualify, the state will provide an evaluation of your child free of charge without the need for a referral. You can take advantage of the early intervention system that is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to see if your child does suffer from receptive language disorders.

The private treatment of your child will provide them the help they need to overcome their disabilities and understand the words, phrases, questions, and commands. The earlier the treatment can begin, the better. However, keep in mind that many children will develop their language skills at a slower rate, so getting the proper diagnosis is crucial for the child to get the proper treatment.

Consult with an Expert Speech or Occupational Therapist