Expressive Language Disorder
A person with an expressive language disorder (as opposed to a mixed receptive/expressive language disorder) understands language better than he/she is able to communicate. In speech-language therapy terms, the person’s receptive language (understanding of language) is better than his/her expressive language (use of language). This type of language disorder is often a component in developmental language delay (see section on this disorder). Expressive language disorders can also be acquired (occurring as a result of brain damage/injury), as in aphasia (see section on aphasia). The developmental type is more common in children, whereas the acquired type is more common in the elderly. An expressive language disorder could occur in a child of normal intelligence, or it could be a component of a condition affecting mental functioning more broadly (i.e. mental retardation, autism).
Children with expressive language delays often do not talk much or often, although they generally understand language addressed to them. For example, a 2 year old may be able to follow 2-step commands, but he/she cannot name body parts. A 4 year old may understand stories read to him/her, but he/she may not be able to describe the story even in a simple narrative. Imaginative play and social uses of language (i.e. manners, conversation) may also be impaired by expressive language limitations, causing difficulty in playing with peers. These are children who may have a lot to say, but are unable to retrieve the words they need. Some children may have no problem in simple expression, but have difficulties retrieving and organizing words and sentences when expressing more complicated thoughts and ideas. This may occur when they are trying to describe, define, or explain information or retell an event or activity.
In school-aged children, expressive language
difficulties may be evident in writing as well. These children may have
difficulties with spelling, using words correctly, composing sentences,
performing written composition, etc. They may express frustration because
they recognize that they cannot express the idea they wish to communicate.
These children may become withdrawn socially because they cannot use
language to relate to peers.
mentioned in the section on developmental language disorders, these
children may act out in school, or in later
school years and reject learning completely without help. Also, as
mentioned in the section on developmental language disorders, expressive
disorders do not disappear with time. A speech-language pathologist
can best diagnose an expressive language disorder. Parents and classroom
teachers are in key positions to help in the evaluation as well as
the planning and implementation of treatment. Other professionals involved
in assessment and treatment, especially as related to academics, include
educational therapists, resource specialists, and tutors.