Expressive Language Disorder

Expressive language disorder occurs when a child has problems with all aspects of producing spoken and written language.

The disorder is generally either developmental or acquired. Acquired expressive language difficulty can manifest after a trauma such as brain injury or from a medical condition.

With developmental expressive language difficulty, there is no known cause, though research does point to a genetic connection in some cases.

Symptoms are many and varied and each child presents with different problems. Some of the more common symptoms though are:

    • Poor semantic knowledge, or word/world knowledge.

    • Difficulty with syntax and grammatical rules in spoken and written sentences.

    • Sentences are often short and lack detail.

    • Word finding difficulty.

    • An inability to be economical with language. Individuals often use extraneous or imprecise words, and fail to make their point.

    • Difficulty in recounting a story or narrative.

    Diagnosis for expressive language difficulty is generally performed by speech-language pathologists. Speech-Language Pathologists use standardised language assessments that specifically target a child's ability to formulate thoughts into sentences, with correct grammar use.

    An enormous amount of information can be gathered in an informal way by simply talking with a child with language disorder, and also asking him/her to read a short storybook and ask them to retell the story.. This generally occurs in a friendly and relatively stress free setting.

    The child's ability to respond to questions, and how much information they can produce is noted and and recorded.

    Intervention is traditionally performed one-to-one between the speech-language pathologist and the child, with therapy targeting the child's language deficits.

    Language group activities, that feature several students, is also a useful treatment method that can produce good results.


    Kaderavek, J.N. (2011) Language Disorders in Children: Fundamental Concepts of Assessment and Intervention, Allyn & Bacon

    Paul, R. (2006) Language Disoders from Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

    Content updated 8/11

    Return from expressive language disorder to language disorder.