Communication Disorders in Children

What are communication disorders in children?

A child with a communication
disorder has trouble communicating with others. He or she may not understand or make the
sounds of speech. The child may also struggle with word choice, word order, or sentence
structure.

There are several types of these disorders. They are:

  • Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. A child has developmental delays and problems understanding spoken language and speaking.
  • Expressive language disorder. A child has developmental delays and problems speaking.
  • Speech-sound disorders. A child has a hard time expressing words clearly past a certain age.
  • Childhood-onset fluency disorder. This is also known as stuttering. It starts in childhood and can last throughout life.
  • Social communication disorder. A child has trouble with verbal and nonverbal communication that is not caused by thinking problems.

What causes communication disorders in a child?

Communication disorders may be developmental. Or they can be caused by:

  • Physical problems such as a problem in brain development
  • Exposure to poisons (toxins) during
    pregnancy, such as illegal drugs or lead
  • Gene problems

Which children are at risk for communication disorders?

Boys tend to be diagnosed with these disorders more often than girls. Researchers don’t know why. Children with these conditions often have other mental health problems.

What are the symptoms of communication disorders in a child?

Each child may have different symptoms. But these are the most common symptoms in a young child:

  • Not speaking at all
  • Limited word choice for his or her age
  • Trouble grasping simple directions or naming objects

Most young children with these disorders are able to speak by the time they enter school. But they still have problems with communicating.

School-aged children often have problems understanding and making words. Teens may have more trouble understanding or expressing abstract ideas.

These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are communication disorders diagnosed in a child?

Most children with these disorders are referred to a speech-language pathologist. This is a speech expert who treats children who are having problems communicating. Your child may also see a child psychiatrist. That is often the case if the child has emotional or behavioral problems.

A full evaluation may involve:

  • Psychological testing of thinking abilities
  • Psychometric testing to check a child’s reasoning skills, reactions to different situations, and thinking. It does not test general knowledge.