There are two main types of language disorder: receptive and expressive and both are types of learning disability. So what is the difference between expressive and receptive language disorder and what is the prognosis for a person diagnosed with a language disorder?
For a child or adult to be diagnosed with a language disorder, they will need to have problems understanding or using spoken language and be significantly behind their peers in terms of language developmental skills. In some cases, the problems are caused by a loss of hearing, but in many children, language disorders are as a result of inherited conditions, brain injuries or other serious problems.
So what is the difference?
Patients with expressive language disorder are able to understand spoken language within the parameters of their developmental stage, but find it difficult to articulate words and form complex sentences. There are two main types of expressive language disorder: developmental and acquired, the latter occurring as a result of damage to the brain from an injury or stroke. Developmental language disorder is much more common in boys.
The underlying cause of receptive language disorder is often unknown. People with receptive language disorder have difficulties understanding speech, and in the case of older children and adults, the written word. Patients with receptive language disorder can often understand some key words, but not others. As a result, they might appear to understand what is being said, but if commands are spoken out of context without the aid of non-verbal clues, understanding will soon be lost.
In many cases there is a partial overlap between the two conditions and a patient will show the symptoms of receptive language disorder AND expressive language disorder, so not only will they have problems comprehending spoken and/or written language—they will also find it hard to express themselves verbally.
Children with expressive language disorder are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age—they will be able to make the correct sounds, but have problems forming coherent sentences or recalling the correct words. Receptive language disorder is not always detected quickly as many children are able to pick up key words and non-verbal clues to help them understand what is being said. But in both cases, a child with receptive language disorder and/expressive language disorder will appear less capable than they really are and if the condition is not detected at an early age, the child will fall behind in their schooling.
Is there a difference in treatment methods?
Treatment for both disorders will include speech and language therapy in the form of one-to-one or group sessions. This can help the patient practice key language skills and learn the important relationships between sounds and words. Children diagnosed with a language disorder may benefit from extra classroom support and special education classes at school. In more severe cases, the patient may benefit from multi-sensory therapeutic techniques and a whole language approach.