An Overview of Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder in Toddlers

What is Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder?

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is defined as a language disability that impairs both the understanding (reception) and speaking (expression) of language. This is a disorder that is generally more prevalent during childhood, and affects about three to five percent of all children, who display symptoms of either receptive or expressive language disorder, or both.

There are two main types of mixed receptive-expressive language disorder: one is developmental and the other is acquired. The cause for the developmental version of the disorder is unknown and normally begins to show symptoms around the time that the child is starting to talk (usually diagnosed before the child reaches four years old). The acquired version of mixed receptive-expressive language disorder can result from direct damage or injury to the brain. The specific symptoms of the acquired disorder depend on the parts of the brain that have experienced trauma as well as the severity of the injury.

Common Symptoms

Typical symptoms exhibited in a child with the mixed receptive-expressive language disorder may include any or all of the following:

  • Difficulty with spoken language, evident in challenges with putting together coherent sentences, using proper grammar, remembering words’ meanings or appropriate context
  • Inability to organize and communicate thoughts, needs or wants at the same level of peers
  • Using a number of phrases repeatedly, or echoing questions without providing any intelligible response
  • Difficulty in comprehension, which may manifest itself in inappropriate responses or inability to follow directions
  • Problems understanding certain parts of speech (such as nouns) and more complex sentences

Diagnosis and Treatment

Parents or teachers are usually the first to spot signs of the disorder in the child, because of the frequent interaction on a daily basis. As the parent, you should first consult with your child’s pediatrician to rule out other medical problems related to hearing loss or mental or developmental health. If none of these problems have been identified, you will need to seek the help of a professional in the field of speech development.

Once you schedule an appointment with a speech pathologist, s/he will usually look for the symptoms above by conducting a series of verbal and non-verbal tests that have both spoken and comprehension elements. Since it can be difficult to determine what a child understands because of elementary vocabulary, the speech pathologist will also look out for non-verbal cues of comprehension or response.

Whether the disorder is suspected or confirmed, the child affected with these symptoms would highly benefit from speech therapy during the early formative years to make sure s/he is on track with speech acquisition and language development. Unfortunately, there is a strong link between mixed receptive-expressive language disorder and reading problems, which can result in serious long-term academic failure if left untreated. Studies show that when children are diagnosed early and taught basic reading skills simultaneously, the chances of complete recovery are high.

Here, at Chicago Speech Therapy, we are serious about identifying symptoms of mixed receptive-expressive language disorder as soon as possible. Based on our experiences, we believe that addressing the problem during its infancy highly increases the chances of the therapy being successful in the long-run. Karen George, our lead licensed speech-language pathologist, and her team of speech experts have confirmed the effectiveness of early intervention.

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"We had the most wonderful experience with Chicago Speech Therapy! Our speech pathologist, Miss Megan, developed a bond with our son almost immediately. By week two, he would await her arrival by the window in our front door! She quickly discovered all of his favorite things and would bring so many toys of her own that would keep him engaged and wanting to talk! She gave us (parents) tons of strategies to work with on our own in between her weekly visits. Our son made consistent progress under her care and has now been released from speech therapy ~ which actually makes us so sad ~ simply because we miss Miss Megan! She basically became part of our family and will be dearly missed. I couldn’t recommend Miss Megan and Chicago Speech Therapy more!"

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