Is Your Child Not Listening and Understanding? When is it time to seek professional advice?

Is Your Child Not Listening and Understanding? When is it time to seek professional advice?

Is Your Child Not Listening and Understanding? When is it time to seek professional advice?

Does your child seem to have trouble listening?  Do you feel like you have to repeat yourself several times before your child responds?  Does your child have difficulty following directions?  Do you feel like your child’s responses make no sense?  Does your child always seem to be tuned out?  These questions are related to your child’s ability to process and make sense of language.

Children that have difficulty understanding language can become frustrated and easily overwhelmed.  This can result in withdrawal or acting out behavior.  Children that struggle to interpret language may appear to be tuning out, or act as if they are purposefully ignoring the speaker.  This can cause frustration on both sides, and result in a lot of miscommunication.

Language processing is made up of three components.  Difficulty with any one or more of these components can make effective processing 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 language processing are:

  • Taking In – This is the ability to receive the information being communicated.  It involves being able to see nonverbal communication, and hear verbal communication.  Children who struggle with taking in information may have difficulties with vision, hearing, or may just not know how to tune in to those modes of communication.
  • Making meaning – Refers to the ability to interpret the information that has been taken in.  Once you have seen (nonverbal communication) or heard (verbal communication) the information, your brain needs to do something with it in order to understand it.  Children who struggle with this aspect of processing may not be effective in adequately storing information in their brain, which results in difficulty retrieving that information the next time it is needed.  They may also have difficulty with sorting through multiple pieces of information at one time. An example is not being able to make sense of mom’s frown and the words, “I see a big mess,” as an indication that she is upset.  This can result in confusion and a disconnected response.
  • Responding – Utilizing the information that has been taken in and made sense of to formulate a reply.  The response may be an action or a verbal reply.  Children that have a breakdown at this stage may reply in a way that is disconnected from the information given, or may not reply at all.  For example: The parent says, “It’s time to go, grab your shoes,” and the child shows up at the door without shoes.  In this instance, the child was able to make meaning and respond to the “it’s time to go” portion of the statement, but missed the “grab your shoes” piece.

Language processing develops in stages, and some of the difficulties mentioned above are common in younger children and not viewed as a concern.  As children begin to enter into the preschool and school age years, these developmental difficulties should generally be resolved.  If your preschool or older child is continuing to struggle with any of the three areas of language processing, 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 communicating. Reducing frustration and anxiety should be a priority for children that are showing signs of withdrawal or acting out.

Written by: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP

To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your child’s e language processing difficulties, call (616) 698-0306 or email


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Horizons Developmental Resource Center serves the following areas in and around Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Caledonia, Kentwood, Middleville, Lowell, Forest Hills, Hudsonville, Walker, Holland, Zeeland, Rockford, Byron Center, Allendale, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, Wayland, Jenison, Ada, Ionia, Newaygo, Grant, Sparta, Cedar Springs, Kent City, Hamilton, Hastings in the state of Michigan and all surrounding areas.  If you are not located in or around these cities, we still may be able to help you, please contact us here with your specific need.



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