Akron speech therapists identify developmental language disorders

How Akron Speech Therapists Identify Developmental Language Disorders

As pediatric Akron speech therapists, we recognize that developmental language disorders can have a long-lasting impact on kids’ ability to communicate, do well in school, and make social connections. Early detection and intervention is critical. That’s why we rely on evidence-based strategies for identifying developmental language disorders in children as young as 12-18 months.

What is a Developmental Language Disorder?

Developmental language disorders involve difficulty acquiring or using language due to deficits in understanding and/or production of language.

As outlined by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), developmental language disorders (also sometimes called childhood spoken language disorders) are not caused by hearing loss, intellectual disability, or neurological damage.

In some cases, there is no known cause for a child’s language disorder. Sometimes, it can be associated with autism, premature birth, brain injury, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, etc.

Typically, language orders are first identified when parents and other caregivers notice the child has trouble with vocabulary, sentence structure, and conversation skills.

There are two basic kinds of childhood language disorders:

  • Expressive (talking, expressing themselves – verbally or otherwise).
  • Receptive (understanding language that is being communicated to them).

A child with a receptive language disorder may have difficulty:

  • Understanding non-verbal communication like pointing, gesturing, nodding or shrugging.
  • Following directions
  • Pointing to pictures or objects.
  • Answering questions.
  • Knowing when/how to take turns.

A child with an expressive language disorder may have difficulty:

  • Asking questions.
  • Naming objects.
  • Using gestures.
  • Putting words together in a sentence.
  • Learning rhymes or songs.
  • Using correct pronouns such as “she” or “they.”

You might also notice a language disorder if your toddler/preschool age child struggles to learn the alphabet, name numbers and letters, tell a story (beginning, middle, end), look at pictures in a book and turn the pages, or even hold the book right side up.

Testing for Childhood Language Disorders

As pediatric speech-language therapists, we employ time-tested approaches to identifying (and treating) childhood developmental language disorders.

Our process may include:

  • Parent/teacher questionnaires. This gives us insight into the child’s use of language and behavior in different settings, and helps us highlight potential areas of concern.
  • Direct observation. We will assess the child’s language abilities in a naturalistic setting – during play, interaction with peers/other adults, in structured activities. We’ll analyze their spontaneous speech and assess language complexity, grammar, storytelling, and vocabulary. Often, we “structure” scenarios in a play-based setting, with interactive games, pretend play, toys, etc., which kids find more engaging and comfortable. This gives us a chance to see firsthand how the child uses language.
  • Standardized screening. We use tests like the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test to ascertain the child’s language abilities compared to peers their same age.
  • Review of medical records. Some of the questions we ask in our speech therapy intake questionnaires are specifically aimed at determining the likelihood of a particular medical condition playing a notable role in a child’s speech or language deficits. We’ll ask about their birth history, developmental milestones, any family history of language disorders, and details of any previous evaluations.

Our goal is to make certain we have all the information we need for an accurate, comprehensive language assessment. We want parents and caregivers to have all the information they need to choose their next steps.

Don’t Delay Seeking Akron Speech Therapists’ Insight

Sometimes there is a significant delay between the time parents/caregivers first notice a possible issue with a child’s language development and when they seek insight from Akron speech therapists. Most commonly, the reason is, “Well, I wasn’t sure…”

We understand! But it’s important to note that unless you are a specialist in child development (and child speech/language development in particular), there is no way to be “sure” of a speech or language disorder until we conduct testing.

We encourage parents to trust their instincts when it comes to their child. Also, know that because early intervention is so strongly associated with the best long-term outcomes, we would much rather test a child who ultimately doesn’t need speech-language therapy than wait months or years to test a child who does.

If you are concerned that your child may have a developmental language disorder, our Akron speech therapists can answer your questions and give you insight about your options ensure they have the support they need to thrive.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

About Childhood Spoken Language Disorders, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Why Repetition is Effective in Cleveland Speech Therapy for Kids, May 10, 2024, Therapy & Wellness Connection Blog