Understanding Communication Disorders
What Are Communication Disorders?
A communication disorder is any type of impairment, disability, or delay that affect a child’s ability to comprehend or use speech and language in discourse with others. The primary types of communication disorders include the following categories:
- Expressive Language Disorders – Expressive language disorders include developmental delays and disorders involving the production of speech. Children with expressive language disorders tend to comprehend language better than they can use it. This category also includes children who are much further behind in speech than the expected milestones for their age. Traits of expressive language disorders include difficulty retrieving words for conversation and discourse, a very limited active vocabulary, or the inability to speak in full sentences.
- Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorders – Mixed receptive-expressive language disorders involve disabilities and delays the include difficulty comprehending spoken language and commands. It can also include the inability to produce speech or retrieve the words to express oneself clearly.
What Causes Communication Disorders?
Communication disorders can either developmental or acquired. For example, communication disorders may be the result of biological problems related to brain development. They can be the result of exposure to toxins in the womb or inherited genetic factors. At times, communication disorders can stem from trauma or in conjunction with another developmental or cognitive delay.
Who Experiences Communication Disorders?
Statistically, boys receive a greater proportion of communication disorder diagnoses than girls. However, both genders can experience communication disorders and benefit from treatment. Children with these conditions often deal with other psychiatric or developmental disorders as well.
What Are Some Symptoms of Communication Disorders?
Every child is unique and may demonstrate symptoms differently. However, some of the most common symptoms of communication disorders include the following:
- Mutism or inability to speak at all
- Limited vocabulary for expected age milestones
- Difficulty understanding commands, directions, or questions
- Inability to name common objections
- Difficulty expressing statements or ideas
- Problems formulating sentences or engaging in discourse
While many children with communication disorders can speak by pre-school age, they may still struggle with communication and can continue to benefit from speech therapy or intervention. Moreover, children in primary school can experience problems forming words or understanding directions, and teens might have problems understanding or articulating abstract ideas. Since communication disorders can resemble other developmental problems, it is important to receive a proper diagnosis from a medical diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Communication Disorders
Most children receive a referral to a speech or language evaluation when a parent, teach, caregiver, or primary care physician first notices symptoms. In addition to a speech and language evaluation, a child psychiatrist may also evaluate children who demonstrate emotional or behavioral struggles. After an initial consultation, children who demonstrate symptoms usually undergo comprehensive testing, including tests of speech, psychometric, logical reasoning, and cognitive abilities.
Treatment of Communication Disorders
Treatment of communication disorders include early childhood intervention (ECI), special education teachers, and therapy under the supervision of speech-language pathologists. In addition, the tenets of a treatment plan may depend on the following factors:
- The child’s age and medical history
- Type and severity of speech or language disorder
- The presence of other physical, emotional, behavioral, or cognitive disorders
- Predictive outcomes for the course of the disorder
- Physician’s recommendation for therapy or medication
Effective treatment of communication disorders involves a concerted effort among parents, teachers, and licensed professionals. Treatment may involve individual or group therapy, remediation, and special exercises. Professionals may also recommend home therapies or assignments to help children overcome any communication deficits.
Prevention of Communication Disorders
There are currently no known preventative measures for biological or developmental communications disorders. However, early detection and intervention greatly help counteract social or academic difficulties and improve a child’s likelihood for success in communication.