Is Your Child Having Difficulty Talking? When is it time to seek professional advice?
Does your child have trouble finding the right words to say? Does your child talk, but not make sense? Does your child have difficulty with the social rules of talking? These questions are related to your child’s expressive language abilities.
Children that have difficulty expressing themselves can become frustrated, which results in withdrawing or acting out behavior. The ability to verbally communicate is uniquely human, and without that ability a person can feel very isolated. Children that struggle to make their thoughts known are experiencing an expressive language delay.
Expressive language is made up of three components. Difficulty with any one or more of these components can make effective communication a struggle. If your child is experiencing difficulty in any of these areas, it may be time to look for professional support.
The three components of expressive communication are:
- Semantics refers to the words in our language and what they mean. Children who have difficulty coming up with the right word to use, or who use an incorrect word, may be having difficulty with semantics. For example: A child might say, “that round bouncy thing” when referring to a ball; or “I want an orange,” when it is clear s/he is looking at an apple.
- Syntax refers to the grammar and structure of language. Children that struggle to use complete sentences, use the wrong verb tense, or who do not use pronouns are experiencing deficits in syntax. For example: the child might say, “He runned fast” or “Me like doggy.”
- Pragmatics is the social aspect of language. Children that struggle to use the social rules of language such as not interrupting, knowing what questions are okay to ask, staying on the topic, or responding appropriately to others comments are experiencing difficulties with pragmatics. An example may be: when the adult comments, “Wow, the sky is so blue today,” and the child responds, “I like to eat popcorn.”
Language develops in a sequence, and some of the difficulties mentioned above are common in younger children and not viewed as errors. As children begin to enter into the preschool and school age years, these developmental errors should generally be resolved. If your preschool or older child is continuing to struggle with any of the three areas of language, an evaluation by a speech/language pathologist may be necessary. It is important to seek professional help for children that are showing signs of frustration or anxiety with communication. Reducing frustration and anxiety should be a priority for children that are showing signs of withdrawal or acting out.
To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your child’s expressive language difficulties, call (616) 698-0306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP
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