Language Delay and Disorder

What is Language Delay and Disorder?

There are many terms used among professionals when describing children who have difficulties understanding and using language. Some use the term developmental language disorder, specific language impairment, expressive language disorder, language learning impairment or, language delay or disorder. This can make it difficult for parents to get appropriate information. Pediatric speech therapy can definitely help.

There is a difference between the word “delay” and “disorder”. A delay is when children have speaking and understanding difficulties that are unusual for their age. A disorder means that a child is not developing language as one would expect, or abnormally.

When someone has difficulty understanding what others are saying, they have problems with their receptive language or auditory comprehension. When someone has difficulty expressing themselves, they have problems with their expressive language. Some people have difficulty with both areas of spoken language which can be frustrating to themselves and the people with whom they communicate.

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How a Speech-Language Pathologist can help?

The speech-language pathologist (SLP) provides assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for children with language delay or disorder. The Speech Therapist identifies areas of strength and needs and creates a treatment plan that helps the child develop the listening and speaking skills that allow him or her to communicate more effectively. Pediatric Speech Therapy provides consultation to the important people in a child’s life, help them support the child’s communication in all environments, and lay the foundations for reading and writing skills through the development of oral language.


If your child has a language delay, they won’t reach language milestones at the typical age. Their specific symptoms and missed milestones depend on their age and the nature of their language delay.

Common symptoms of a language delay include:

  • Not babbling by the age of 15 months
  • Not talking by the age of 2 years
  • An inability to speak in short sentences by the age of 3 years
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Poor pronunciation or articulation
  • Difficulty putting words together in a sentence
  • Leaving words out of a sentence


We don’t know what causes language delay in most cases. In some instances, more than one factor contributes to a language delay. It can also be genetic.

Some common causes include the following:

  • Hearing impairment: It’s common for children who have a hearing impairment to have a language impairment as well. If they can’t hear the language, learning to communicate can be difficult
  • Autism: While not all children with autism have language delays, autism frequently affects communication
  • Intellectual disability: A variety of intellectual disabilities can cause language delays. For instance, dyslexia and other learning disabilities lead to language delays in some cases
  • Several psychosocial issues: These can cause language delays, as well. For example, severe neglect can lead to problems with language development
  • Boys
  • Children who have family members with a history of language or communication disorder

How it’s diagnosed?

After conducting a thorough medical assessment, your child’s doctor will refer you to a speech-language pathologist. They will perform a comprehensive assessment of your child’s expressive and receptive language to determine if your child has a language delay. The exam will focus on various forms of verbal and nonverbal communication and use standardized and informal measures.

After completing a speech and language evaluation, the language pathologist may recommend other exams. For example, a hearing exam can help them determine if your child has a hearing impairment. Your child may have hearing problems that have been overlooked, especially if they’re very young.


After diagnosis, your child’s treatment plan will likely involve speech and language therapy. A licensed speech-language pathologist will complete an evaluation to determine the types of problems that your child is facing. This information will help them develop and implement a treatment plan.

If your child has underlying health conditions, their doctor may recommend other treatments as well. For example, they may recommend an evaluation by a neuropsychologist.

What is the outlook?

Your child’s outlook will vary depending on their specific condition and age. Some children catch up to their peers and meet future language milestones. Other children have more difficulty overcoming language delays and may face problems in later childhood. Some children with language delays have reading or behavior problems as a result of their delayed language development.

If your child is diagnosed with a language delay, it’s important to start treatment quickly. Early pediatric speech therapy can help prevent other problems from developing, such as social, learning, and emotional problems.

Tips for encouraging language development

It may not be possible to prevent all language delays. Hearing impairments and learning disabilities may not always be preventable.

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Follow these tips to encourage language development in your child:

  • Talk to your child from the time they’re born
  • Respond to your child’s babbling when they’re a baby
  • Sing to your child, even when they’re a baby
  • Read aloud to your child
  • Answer your child’s questions

If you wish to receive more information and/or make an appointment with our Speech-Language Pathologist, please contact us. We are conveniently located in Burlington, Aldershot.