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Preschool Language Disorders

Problems with understanding are called receptive language disorders. Problems with talking are called expressive language disorders. Children may have problems with both. Sometimes a language disorder is called specific language impairment, or SLI.

Types of preschool language disorders may include problems with:

  • Understanding basic concepts, questions, and directions
  • Learning new words
  • Saying words in the right order
  • Having conversations and telling stories

What causes preschool language disorders?
Often the cause of a language disorder in not known. Some causes of preschool language disorders may be:

  • Family history of language disorders
  • Premature birth or Low birth-weight
  • Hearing loss
  • Autism
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Syndromes, like Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome
  • Brain injury
  • Tumors
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Failure to thrive  or poor nutrition

How are preschool language disorders evaluated?

Speech-language pathologists, also called SLPs, usually are part of a team. The team includes you, the child's teacher, and other professionals. The team can see if your child's language skills are at age level. SLPs evaluate children with standardized tests and while they play. They want to know:

  • Does your child know what to do with toys?
  • Does your child use pretend play?

For understanding and talking, the SLP will see if your child:

  • Follows directions
  • Names common objects and actions
  • Knows colors, numbers, and letters
  • Follows routines like putting his coat away or sitting during circle  time
  • Sings songs or repeats nursery rhymes
  • Gets needs met at home, during play, and at preschool

SLPs will see if your child's speech is easy to understand. They will see how your child uses her lips, tongue, and teeth to make sounds. They will have your child imitate sounds or words.
For early reading and writing, the SLP will see if your child:

  • Looks at and talks about pictures in books
  • Recognizes familiar signs and logos
  • Holds a book correctly and turns the pages
  • Recognizes and writes his or her own name
  • Tries to write letters and numbers

How are preschool language disorders treated?

SLPs can help children with language disorders. They work on language problems found during the evaluation. They work with you, teachers, and other professionals to improve speech and language skills. Good language skills help with learning, behavior, self- esteem, and social skills.

Here are some possible treatment goals:

  • Increase your child's understanding and use of language
  • Teach caregivers, family members, and teachers ways to   communicate  with your child
  • Help your child use other ways to communicate when needed. This may include simple gestures, picture boards, or computers that say words out loud. This is also called augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.

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