Children with expressive language difficulties has problems with expressing themselves with correct grammar, choice of words and pronunciation. These children can have an age-appropriate linguistic understanding, but still can’t verbalise what they want. They need support and time to be able to express themselves. In contact with the speech and language pathologist (SLP), the child can receive treatment and you as a parent can get help with how to best support your child.
Signs of difficulties with the expressive language:
– The language development is delayed and the child does not start speaking at the expected age.
– The child may find it difficult to learn the names of friends or has a hard time learning the days of the week or to count from one to ten.
– The child use sentences with incomplete grammar and may have difficulty with various inflections. For example, the child may say “cat eat” instead of “the cat is eating”.
– The child omits words in sentences and uses an incorrect word order.
– The child may find it difficult to find the right word at the moment. For example, “apple” can be referred to as “pear”, even though the child knows the difference.
– The child may have pronunciation difficulties and trouble hearing the difference between letter sounds.
Note that some of the above mentioned characteristics of language disorders are also included in normal language development in children of a certain age. See the information under typical language development.
How to think and act:
– Use passive correction, that is when you as an adult repeat what the child says, but correctly. For example, if the child says “I play car” you can answer “I understand, you want to play with the car”.
– Avoid telling the child that what he/she says is incorrect. This can cause the child to have a reduced self-esteem. It is important to remember that the child is doing the best he/she can and if the child could speak differently, he/she would have done so.
– Even if the child has a good understanding, the language processing can be slow which can cause the child to have difficulty understanding information that is given too quickly or is too long. Therefore, divide instructions and then ask the child if he/she has understood.
– Choose books based on the child’s language level and not age. Many libraries have librarians who are good at this and can help you select the perfect book for your child.
– Let conversations take time and wait for the child to respond.
– Talk a lot with your child. Conversate about the things you see around you. What colour or shape do they have? Which one is the longest/thinnest/widest? Let the child photograph things during the day and afterwards you can look at the pictures and talk about what happened during the day and what you saw.