Expressive Language Disorder


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Expressive language disorder is defined as a symptom in individuals who have problems in expressing themselves when using the spoken language. This is mainly a childhood disorder and is classified under two types of expressive language disorder. They are the developmental type and the acquired type. The developmental expressive language disorder occurs in persons but the known cause has not yet been identified.

This affliction is apparent when the child is learning to speak. The latter type is a neurological defect caused primarily by brain damage. This disorder becomes apparent when the individual suffers stroke or undergoes a traumatic head injury. The acquired expressive language disorder can occur at any age. So far no known cause for expressive language disorder has been identified. However, research is an ongoing process that is trying to determine the biological and environmental factors responsible for this affliction.

In the case of acquired expressive language disorder, damage to the brain can be sustained during stroke or a traumatic head injury which results in seizures or other medical condition that causes this disorder. The manner is which acquired expressive language disorder is manifested in a specific person depends on the portion of the brain that has been damaged and the extent of brain damage. Expressive language disorder is characterized by a child having difficulty in expressing himself/herself in the course of their speech. The symptoms vary drastically between the afflicted children.

The child does not have problems with pronunciation as is found in phonological disorder. Rather the child has problems in putting the sentences coherently or using proper grammar or using correct vocabulary and faces similar other such difficulties. A child suffering from expressive language disorder is unable to communicate his/her thoughts, needs and desires at the same level or with the same complexity as his/her peers. Similarly, a child with expressive language disorder has a limited vocabulary. Though the child understands the words as their peers but is unable to use them in sentences.

The child understands the complex spoken sentences and can carry out any intricate instruction but cannot form the complex sentences. He/she comprehends the text that is being expressed but is unable to create appropriate sentences to express their individual thoughts or feelings through words. Expressive language disorder can be detected in different ways. Some children do not use pronouns properly and leave out the functional words like “things” or “stuff”. In other cases, the child faces difficulty in organizing the sentences.

Expressive language disorder is relatively a childhood disorder and it is estimated that 10% to 15% of children under the age of three suffer from this affliction. This situation roughly amounts to 3% to 7% of school-age children. Expressive language disorder is more common in boys than in girls. Studies have revealed that developmental expressive language disorder occurs 2 to 5 times more in boys than in girls.

For diagnosis, non-verbal tests are used in addition to tests that require spoken answers. The sharpness of hearing should also be assessed since children who do not hear well have problems while putting together sentences. The two types of treatment for expressive language disorder are (a) one-to-one with a speech therapist and (b) parent-teacher work in coordination with the child to incorporate spoken language that the child needs in every day activities and play. Both the stated form of treatments should work in conjunction.


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