Expressive Language Delay and How to Deal With It

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Language delays like expressive language delay can be challenging for children.

Those with this condition will find it difficult to relay information in all social situations, which can be extremely frustrating.

With the appropriate help, children can learn how to communicate to better their mental health effectively.

Expressive Speech Delay vs. Receptive Speech Delay

There are two types of language delays you’re likely to come across: expressive and receptive.

Although each fall under the same blanket term, they both have very different manifestations.

There are many instances where children will have to deal with both expressive and receptive language disorders.

What Is Expressive Language Disorder?

Expressive language delay, also referred to as expressive language disorder, is when children find it difficult to convey information.

This is when children will have challenges expressing themselves using writing, speech, gestures, or sign language.

More than that, it’s often that they will miss significant milestones in their first three years compared to their peers.

Many families refer to expressive language disorder as children being late talkers. They must receive speech therapy to assist them with learning positive communicative behaviors.

What Is Receptive Speech Delay?

Receptive speech delay is the opposite of expressive speech delay.

Those with this language disorder find it most challenging to listen to information, such as teachings and commands.

Receiving, understanding, and processing provided information will be significantly more challenging.

Does Expressive Language Delay Mean Autism?

Just because a child has expressive language delay does not mean that they have autism.

Both of these challenges can present themselves at the same time in some children. However, expressive language disorder is a specific condition to consider.

There are significant differences in children with autism and ELD compared to children with ELD alone.

Patterns of association significantly differ between patients with ELD and autism compared to those with ELD only.

There is also a difference in dampened brain activity in two language centers of the brain.

So, there are enough significant differences between these two disorders to be classified separately.

Nevertheless, it is best to get a professional diagnosis to ensure your children get the help they need.

What Are the Symptoms of Expressive Language Disorder?

Knowing when to talk to a doctor for expressive language disorder is essential for your child’s well-being.

In that case, what are the symptoms of expressive language disorder that you should watch out for?

There are several common signs and symptoms your children will show.

Improper Word Use

As your child speaks with ELD, they are far more likely to use the wrong words to express themselves.

In many situations, they might not even find the correct words to use to express their thoughts.

This issue can often result in extreme frustration, as the word may feel like it’s on the tip of their tongue.

Lack of Interest in Expression

The more challenging it is for children to explain their thoughts, the less likely they’ll be to do it.

You’re likely to see a significant difference between them and their peers in communicative situations.

Children with expressive language disorder will show a heightened lack of interest in talking. They will also actively avoid social situations, as it can be too hard to express themselves.

Often, they will become more withdrawn, which can lead to other detrimental mental health ailments.

Difficulty Rhyming

Rhyming is a sizeable developmental milestone for children, typically between the ages of three and four.

Individuals with language disorders will find that it’s challenging to recite poems or to sing songs.

As each word relates to the next in rhymed text, it can be near impossible for them to remember.

Challenges Naming Objects

If you were to read a book and ask your child to name the pictures, they would find it troubling with ELD.

It’s hard for them to come up with the right word for objects, so they might show a lack of interest.

They are also likely to get frustrated if they can’t come up with the proper term right away.

Written and Spoken Inconsistencies

It’s expected that families believe expressive language disorder is a solely verbal issue when, in fact, it can manifest as a written problem, as well.

This is because it’s an impairment in their language center of the brain. As a result, you might find that your children are unable to write down coherent thoughts and sentences.

Behavioral Issues

Behavior is a clear indicator of language disorders due to frustration.

Imagine feeling a certain way and being unable to convey that message to your peers or caregivers.

It’s far too often that children exhibit negative behaviors at school and home due to ELD.

Problems With Sequencing

Trouble with sequencing is common in children with this disorder because it’s hard for them to make logical sense.

If you were to ask them to tell you a series of events, they would be unlikely to do so in a logical order.

This issue can also make telling stories significantly more difficult for them and harder for you to understand.

Severe Grammatical Errors

Children with ELD won’t be able to use proper grammar when speaking.

They often avoid using grammatical markers, which can make their sentences sound telegraphic.

Most of their spoken and written work won’t contain smaller words that help to string sentences together.

What Causes Expressive Language Delay?

There are many causes of expressive language disorder in children.

However, even when you know what causes expressive language delay, the exact reason can remain unknown.

Instead, the disorder is only recognized by analyzing a child’s behavior. From trauma to illnesses, there are several risk factors to consider.

Brain Disorders

Brain disorders, such as autism, can put children at higher risk for developing ELD.

Physical Injury

Likely as a result of significant head trauma, ELD can occur from physical distress.

Children who have experienced a brain tumor, severe car accidents, or concussions could often experience it.

expressive language delay 2

Birth Defects

Several congenital disabilities can cause this disorder, including cerebral palsy, fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome.

It’s also important to note that natal malnutrition is a significant cause of language disorders.

Mothers who have poor nutrition or encourage fetal alcohol syndrome put their children at risk.

Children who are born prematurely or have a low birth weight are also at risk for these issues.

Family History

There are plenty of medical conditions that exist due to genetics.

If you know you have a family history of language disorders, it’s essential to notify your doctor.

They will begin screening your child at the appropriate milestones to gauge their development.

Hearing Loss

The inability to hear adequately or at all can significantly impact your child’s speech and language development.

Many families find that treating hearing loss can help children who have also been diagnosed with ELD.


The total effects of trauma on a child’s system are still being explored to this day.

Whether it be physical or emotional, traumatic experiences can cause children to experience severe regressions. This results in a significant reduction in their language abilities.

Will My Child Outgrow Expressive Language Disorder?

It’s not necessarily that your child will outgrow ELD, but more that they will be able to conquer it.

By using professional techniques from a speech-language pathologist, they can learn effective communicating mechanisms.

With early intervention, children can significantly improve the way that they communicate effectively.

Depending on the severity of your child’s expressive language disorder, they may experience lifelong problems.

Another factor that has a significant bearing on their improvement is how the disorder came to be.

Individuals with significant brain trauma, for example, are more likely to experience lifelong problems.

Speech Therapy Goals for Expressive Language Delay

As most parents do, it’s crucial to think about visiting a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist.

These professionals will establish a therapeutic schedule to help your child conquer their disorder. It is easily one of the most crucial aspects of raising a child with this disorder.

With specialized treatment, there are a ton of practical goals the therapist will set out to achieve.

Some of the most common speech therapy goals for expressive language delay include:

Speech-Related Goals

The following are the goals your child will achieve during speech therapy:

Development of Language

During the development of the language phase, your child will learn to explore categorizing information and objects.

They will also better understand the meaning of words and improve their ability to make comparisons.

Expanding Vocabulary

To have more effective conversations, children will work towards expanding their vocabulary. They will also find it easier to identify functions, synonyms, and the attributes of objects.

Improving Sequencing

When telling a story, children will find it’s easier to put events in the correct order.

Speech therapists will assist them in learning how word order affects the meaning of sentences. This process will also have a lot to do with discussing cause and effect.

Identifying Relevant Details

Whether in movies, music, or literature, speech therapists work with children to identify relevant details.

They will show the significance of the main characters, main ideas, and nonfiction and fiction literature problems.

Improving Everyday Speech

Overall, your child is bound to get the foundation necessary to contribute to well thought out conversations.

They’ll work on understanding possessives, plurals, tense markers, questions, positives and negatives, as well as pronouns.

Written-Based Goals

Along with speech therapy, speech-language pathologists can also assist with written goals, including:

Improved Text Formation

When writing a passage, children will learn the importance of spelling correctly, using punctuation, and capitalization.

They will also explore different sentence structures, why modifiers are essential, and use specific phrases.

Meaningful Communication

To help improve classroom performance, professionals help children with meaningful communication through written means.

Your child will learn about organizing their thoughts, using appropriate content, and how to add detail.

Above all else, they will show a significant improvement in the coherence of their written work.

Expressive Language Activities

There are plenty of great expressive language activities that you can do with your child at home to help with ELD. A few of our favorites include:

Encourage Talking

Your child should always be surrounded by healthy conversations at home as long as it is said correctly.

You can talk to them about their day, particular activities, or favorite movies and television shows.

It can also be beneficial to talk them through their daily routines, ensuring that you are always encouraging.


Since singing is one of the challenges for those with ELD, gently easing your child into the wonders of music is beneficial.

The more comfortable they become with reciting the lyrics to their favorite song, the more confident they’ll be.

This can also help them to learn how to convey their emotions to the world.

Specialized Toys

There are plenty of specialized toys for language disorders, especially speech disorders.

Created using scientific studies and research, they can help to make therapy more enjoyable for your child.

How to Live With Expressive Language Delay

With the right course of treatment and professional guidance, living with an expressive language disorder is manageable.

Children will begin to feel more confident in their abilities, which will show a significant positive shift in their behavior.