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Receptive language disorder

  • What is receptive language disorder?

    Receptive language disorder occurs when a child has difficulty understanding what is said to him or her. It’s also known as auditory comprehension or language processing disorder.

    What causes receptive language disorder?

    The cause of receptive language disorder is often unknown, but is thought to result from a number of factors working in combination. 

    Genetic susceptibility, the child’s exposure to language, and general developmental and cognitive (thought and understanding) abilities, may be involved. 

    Receptive language disorder is often associated with developmental disorders, such as autism. It also can be caused by a brain injury, such as trauma, tumor or disease.

    How do I know if my child has a receptive language disorder?

    Signs and symptoms vary drastically from child to child and often begin before age four. Children with receptive language disorders may:

    • not seem to listen when they are spoken to
    • be unable to follow directions
    • respond incorrectly to questions
    • lack interest when story books are read to them
    • be unable to understand complicated sentences
    • parrot words or phrases (echolalia)
    • have language skills below the expected level for their age

    What do I do if I suspect my child has a receptive language disorder?

    If you suspect your child has a receptive language disorder, share your concerns with your pediatrician. He or she may refer your child to an audiologist for hearing tests, and/or a speech-language pathologist for speech therapy.

    A hearing test is recommended prior to seeing a speech therapist. The audiologist will perform tests to make sure the language problems aren’t caused by hearing loss and to establish whether the child is able to pay attention to sound and language (auditory processing assessment).

    Will receptive language delays affect my child in school?

    Depending on the severity of your child’s receptive language delay, his/her ability to understand what is spoken to him/her may be affected. This makes it difficult to learn and interact in the classroom.

    How much will my child improve with treatment?

    The outlook for every child is different depending on a variety of factors. The severity of the disorder, the cause of the disorder, the child’s age when treatment begins, individual response to treatment, and the support of parents and teachers all make a difference.

    How Courage Kenny Kids can help

    After your physician refers your child for a speech language pathology evaluation, we will use special tests to determine if your child would benefit from speech language pathology services.  If treatment is recommended, our clinicians will use specialized techniques, structured play activities and games to improve receptive language skills in a child friendly environment. Here are some examples of common treatment activities to develop receptive language skills:

    • following directions with spatial concepts- such as on/off, top/bottom
    • following multi-step directions
    • understanding correct pronoun use
    • responding appropriately to questions of who, what, why, when, where
    • developing the ability to recall and sequence events in stories

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  • Source: Courage Kenny Kids
    Reviewed by: Sara Rohde, OTR/L, manager, Courage Kenny Kids
    First published: 10/06/2015
    Last reviewed: 10/02/2015

  • Contact Courage Kenny Kids

    A referral is needed from your child's health care provider before therapy can begin. Once your doctor has referred you to the Courage Kenny Kids rehabilitation program, contact one of these locations.

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