What are communication disorders?
There are several different types of communication disorders, including the following:
Expressive language disorder
Expressive language disorder identifies developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to produce speech.
Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder
Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder identifies developmental delays and difficulties in the ability to understand spoken language and produce speech.
What causes communication disorders?
Communication disorders may be developmental or acquired. The cause may be related to biological problems such as abnormalities of brain development, or possibly by exposure to toxins during pregnancy, such as abused substances or environmental toxins such as lead. A genetic factor is sometimes considered a contributing cause in some cases.
Who is affected by communication disorders?
For unknown reasons, boys are diagnosed with communication disorders more often than girls. Children with communication disorders frequently have other psychiatric disorders as well.
What are the symptoms of communication disorders?
The following are the most common symptoms of communication disorders. However, each child may experience symptoms differently.
Young children with communication disorders may not speak at all, or may have a limited vocabulary for their age. Some children with communication disorders have difficulty understanding simple directions or are unable to name objects. Most children with communication disorders are able to speak by the time they enter school, however, they continue to have problems with communication.
School-aged children often have problems understanding and formulating words. Teens may have more difficulty with understanding or expressing abstract ideas.
The symptoms of communication disorders may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Treatment of Communication Disorders
The speech treatment plan developed for your child will vary depending on the subtype of communication disorder that he or she has, as well as on other factors such as your child's intellectual ability, behavior, and personality.
There are essentially three main goals for communication disorder treatments: 1) to help children to develop and improve their communication abilities, 2) to help children develop coping strategies and alternative communication options enabling them to compensate for times when their communications abilities are insufficient, and 3) to help children get used to using and practicing their communication skills and coping strategies in real-world environments such as home, at school, and with friends.
Communications treatment may include one or more of the following types of interventions:
- Speech Therapy to help children learn new vocabulary, organize their thoughts and beliefs, and correct grammatical or word errors
- Behavior Therapy designed to increase children's use of desirable communication behaviors, decrease their unwanted problem behaviors and use of maladaptive coping strategies, and to promote their development of useful interpersonal skills. Changes occur via a program of systematic reward and reinforcement. For example, children may be encouraged to use mnemonic strategies (adaptive coping behavior) to help them remember facts relevant to their school performance. Remembering the word "HOMES" can trigger the names of the five great lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
- Some clinicians may also recommend the use of Stimulant Medications as a treatment for any impulsivity or hyperactivity symptoms that may be present. This is a variation on a common intervention typically used for treating ADHD, which you may read about more in our ADHD topic center.
- Environmental Modification can also be an important part of treatment for communication disorders. For example, children with communication disorders can be given extra time during school-based discussions or oral test situations to more adequately formulate responses.
Success rates for communication disorder treatments based on methods like those just described are typically reported to be high, with around 70% of treated children benefiting. Follow-up treatment is sometimes necessary when relapses occur.
The Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Problems
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