The 3 Types of Language Disorders, and What You Need to Know About Them

Language disorders have to do with communication. If we’re talking about how people use language or process it, that ties directly into this term.

Language disorders are usually developmental but not always. Sometimes, you can develop a language disorder from a brain injury. Sometimes illnesses also cause language problems, even if the person could once communicate and understand correctly.

There are three main language disorder types. We’ll learn about them in this article.

Expressive Language Disorders

The first thing to understand is that developing a serious language disorder can be extremely hard not just for the afflicted individual but also for everyone around them. Everyone involved is going to have to:

  • Be as understanding and patient as possible
  • Learn about the particular kind of disorder that the afflicted person has, so they know how best to handle it

Expressive language disorders, the first of the three categories, are when a person tries to convey a 

message to others through speech, but they struggle to do so. They try to put words together in a way that makes sense, but they can’t always do it.

If an individual learns that they have such a disorder from a young age, then it’s challenging for them, but at least they’re used to it from childhood. If an illness or brain injury causes this sort of problem, then the afflicted person may struggle mightily once they discover that this is happening.

Receptive Language Disorders

A receptive language disorder is where the individual cannot easily understand messages conveyed to them through language. You can say a sentence to them, and:

  • It will seem garbled and incomprehensible to them
  • They might misinterpret what you said or meant

As you can imagine, this is the sort of condition that would be equally frustrating to expressive language disorders. The individual might think they understand the message, but the person speaking meant something else entirely.

Mixed Expressive-Receptive Language Disorders

The third kind of language disorder is a combination of the other two. With mixed expressive-receptive language problems, the afflicted individual can’t always understand what people around them are telling them, nor can they communicate with them effectively.

When Do Doctors Usually Notice These Issues?

If any of these three conditions is developmental, doctors, parents, and teachers often notice them very early in the developmental process. However, expressive language problems usually show up earlier, and receptive ones often come along a little later.

If the condition is illness or brain injury-caused, then that can happen later in life.

Disorder Diagnosis

If a doctor, teacher, or parent suspects one of these conditions, the child usually sees a speech-language pathologist. They can assess the individual and come up with a diagnosis.

For children, state-offered intervention programs exist. These can help the child come to terms with their condition.

Adults will need to seek their own treatment. Their family and friends should be able to help them in this regard.

The sooner the treatment begins, the faster the individual can start to cope with what’s happening.

Some Specific Language Disorder Types

There are several language disorder types, some of which most people have heard of and know about to some degree. For instance, there’s stuttering. Stuttering is a kind of disorder which disrupts the speech flow.

There is also dysarthria. This is where there’s brain damage, which causes weakness to different body parts. It can affect the tongue, throat, chest, lips, face, or some combination of them.

There’s apraxia, which is an impairment of a person’s motor skills. The speech signals that they send to their vocal cords, lips, and tongue are not functioning correctly. They cannot form the speech sounds that they want, even if they know exactly what they’re trying to say.

The vital thing that you need to know about these various conditions is that they don’t have anything to do with intelligence. A person who struggles to speak or understand speech can still be highly intelligent, regardless of whether these problems develop early or later.

Speech therapy can help. In some cases, the person might carry around a pen and paper to better communicate what they’re trying to convey. They might also learn sign language if that seems to be the best option.

If you have one of these disorders, it’s going to be a challenge, but you should still be able to function. Try not to get frustrated with those around you or yourself.

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