Expressive vs. Receptive Language

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Why is expressive and receptive language development important?

We use expressive and receptive language skills to communicate with others effectively. If a person has trouble understanding others or sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings, the person may have a language disorder. A language disorder can be a receptive or expressive language disorder. To determine if your child has receptive or expressive language difficulties, it is important to understand the difference between receptive language and expressive language.

What is receptive language?

Receptive language is the “input” of language, the ability to understand and comprehend spoken language that you hear or read. For example, a child’s ability to listen and follow directions (e.g. “put on your coat”) relies on the child’s receptive language skills. In typical development, children are able to understand language before they are able to produce it. Children who are unable to comprehend language may have receptive language difficulties or a receptive language disorder.

Children who have difficulty understanding language may struggle with the following:

  • Following directions
  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Answering questions
  • Identifying objects and pictures
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding a story

How to improve receptive language: Speech-language therapy is highly effective in improving receptive language skills. A speech-language pathologist will use a variety of informal and formal assessments to determine a child’s specific receptive language weaknesses.

A comprehensive treatment plan is created for each child. Goals may focus on attention and concentration, vocabulary, understanding of grammar, figurative language, comprehension strategies and following directions.

Speech therapy for receptive language is specific to each child’s unique needs. Improving receptive language skills will allow a child to fully and independently participate in their daily activities.

What is expressive language?

Expressive language is the “output” of language, the ability to express your wants and needs through verbal or nonverbal communication. It is the ability to put thoughts into words and sentences in a way that makes sense and is grammatically correct. Children that have difficulty communicating their wants and needs may have expressive language difficulties or an expressive language disorder. For example, children may have expressive language difficulties if they are unable to tell you when they need to use the bathroom or when they are hungry.

Children who have difficulty producing language may struggle with the following:

  • Asking questions
  • Naming objects
  • Using gestures
  • Using facial expressions
  • Making comments
  • Vocabulary
  • Syntax (grammar rules)
  • Semantics (word/sentence meaning)
  • Morphology (forms of words)

How to improve expressive language: Speech therapy is effective in improving expressive language delays and deficits. Expressive language therapy focuses on giving each child the tools and strategies they need to communicate their needs, thoughts and ideas to the world.

If you have questions about your child’s language development we’d be happy to help. Schedule a free phone consultation or complete TherapyWorks “get started” form to set up a teletherapy evaluation for your child.

Receptive and Expressive Language Teletherapy

TherapyWorks has built a large network of therapists with a variety of backgrounds, all of whom hold a masters or doctorate degree in their field and have significant experience working with expressive and receptive language delays and disorders. Our extensive talent pool enables us to thoughtfully match each child with a therapist that has the right training and experience based on that child’s specific needs. The result is effective, successful therapy. 

What is Teletherapy? 

Therapyworks Erin Michelle

Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

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