Language disorder in children


A speech disorder is the inability to form speech sounds correctly and fluently. A clear distinction must be made between a speech disorder and a speech disorder.

A speech disorder affects the motor formation of sounds or words. The language disorder, on the other hand, affects the neurological level of language formation. So the problem lies in the intellectual formation of language. A language disorder in children can have the most varied of characteristics and causes. About eight percent of preschool children in Germany have a language disorder. So the problem is common.

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What is an expressive language disorder?

An expressive language disorder is a problem with the formation of speech sounds. As the name suggests, the language disorder is purely expressive, so it's about linguistic expression. People with expressive language disorders often have trouble finding and using the right words.

In addition, it is difficult to build grammatically correct sentences. The sentences formed are often very short and streaked with grammatical errors. It can also be said that the vocabulary of active words is greatly reduced. Understanding language is usually not a problem. Here, the understanding of language of those affected is comparable to that of healthy people.

An expressive language disorder usually begins in childhood. Often in the second year of life it is not possible to form words or sounds that are similar to words. The cause of the expressive language disorder has not yet been adequately researched. It is believed that both genetic (heritable) factors and neurological (brain-related) factors play a role.

Rumbling as a form of speech disorder

The rumbling is a speech disorder. It is characterized by the disruption of the flow of speech. Here, wording is often merged or left out. It is also typical that sounds are replaced or changed in such a way that some of them cannot be understood. The rhythm of the language can also be disturbed. The language is often perceived as jerky and too fast.

On the other hand, there is a high density of filler words (e.g. "uh") in rumbling people, which make the sentence very unnecessary. It should be noted that those affected are often not really aware of the problems. The rumbling people have difficulty recognizing the speech defects.

Stuttering as a form of language disorder

Stuttering is a well-known disorder of speech flow. When stuttering, sentences are often interrupted and certain sounds are repeated (example: w-w-what?).

It appears as if the affected person is stuck in one place. The “pressing” of certain letters is also typical for stuttering. The causes of stuttering can be divided into two groups. On the one hand, there are psychological reasons that lead to stuttering. On the other hand, stuttering increases nervousness and anxiety. However, children often stutter for no apparent reason.

Stuttering is even a common step that occurs in childhood. Between the ages of two and five, the phenomenon often occurs that the children search for a word and keep repeating a word for so long. As a rule, however, this stuttering disappears again with the children's language progress.

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Dyslalia as a form of speech disorder

In the past, the term dyslalia was often used for an articulation disorder. It is a collective term for various disorders.

The disturbances always concern the pronunciation of words or sounds. A very well known form of articulation disorder or dyslalia is lisp. S-sounds are not formed correctly and a hissing occurs.

It is said that a child should be able to pronounce all speech sounds correctly by their sixth birthday. Up to this age, errors in pronunciation are normal and are part of language development. However, if there is an incorrect pronunciation after the sixth birthday, one can speak of an articulation disorder. There are multiple reasons for that. On the one hand, weak or inadequately coordinated muscles of the mouth can be the reason. A hearing disorder or a lack of differentiation for similar sounds can also be the cause of the articulation disorder.

A hearing test at the doctor should rule out a hearing impairment. Correct pronunciation can be promoted by a speech therapist. Here, for example, exercises are used to strengthen oral motor skills.

Lisp as a form of language disorder

Lisp is a form of dyslalia. When lisping, the sibilants are not formed correctly. The sibilants are s, sch and ch.

Most often, however, the sound s is affected. Usually the S-sound is formed with the tongue on the teeth. It is important, however, that the tongue is on the underside of the lower row of teeth here.

The problem with lisp is that the tongue is too high around the mouth or slipping between the teeth. The resulting sound then resembles the English "th". The sibilants are very difficult sounds, which is why children need a long time to learn them.

Causes of Speech Disorders

The causes of speech disorders can be very different. On the one hand, it is increasingly the case that children with a general developmental delay also have a delay in language development. For example, people with intellectual disabilities can develop a language disorder. Causes for this can e.g. Damage during or after childbirth.

A psychological cause can also come into question. Long stays in hospital and their consequences (hospitalism) or poor social conditions are often said to have a negative impact on language development. Autistic people also tend to have a delay in language development.

The Kanner type in particular is often affected. The speech disorders, in which only the pronunciation is disturbed, often have muscular (motor) causes. For example, the tongue and floor of the mouth muscles are often not sufficiently developed, which is why certain sounds cannot be formed correctly.

Hearing impairment should also always be checked. If the hearing disorder is present, then the speech disorder was due to insufficient perception of the sounds. This also makes repeating it more difficult. Malformations in the area of ​​the teeth or the jaw should also be checked.

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Stress as a cause of a language disorder

Even in children without language disorders, errors or a slow flow of speech can occur under stress. This is normal and can usually be reduced by easing stressful situations. It is important to show the child calm and trust in order to reduce the stress.

However, a language disorder can also lead to stress. Especially if the child is teased by their peers or blamed for the incorrect language by their parents or carers. Here it is advisable to praise the correct pronunciation but not to criticize mistakes. In the worst case, the child will otherwise be conditioned to speak less and less.

Diagnosis of a language disorder

Often the parents notice in early childhood that something is wrong. Here it is often noticeable at the age of six to twelve months that the children either fall silent or have trouble concentrating.

Motor defects or a lack of eye contact can also be the first signs of a speech development disorder. However, the real diagnosis is more difficult because language development is very individual.

It is normal for a child to learn to speak faster than their peers. One tries to diagnose a language disorder with the help of certain tests. These are run through playfully. For example, pictures must be described or spoken instructions must be carried out. As a rule, paediatricians or ear, nose and throat specialists can diagnose whether there is a speech development disorder.

Accompanying symptoms of a language disorder

The accompanying symptoms are mainly psychological in nature. Often these symptoms are even perceived as more distressing than the language disorder itself. The accompanying symptoms include, for example, a reduced self-esteem. The children see themselves in comparison to their friends and peers and notice that their language is not "normal".

This can lead to self-doubt and a devaluation of yourself. In addition, there is often a fear of speaking. Situations where people could speak are also avoided. This is due to the negative experiences the child has had with speaking. If the child was made fun of or criticized for the language of the child, avoidant and fearful behavior is typical.

Some physical symptoms related to stress may occur while speaking. For example, physical tension, increased blinking, tremors or blushing can often occur.

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Therapy of speech disorder in children

Treatment of speech disorders in children should be started as early as possible. If it becomes apparent in early childhood that the child has a speech development disorder, a specialist should be consulted.This can determine the problems in a thorough examination and then treat them in a targeted manner. If the speech disorder is due to a hearing disorder, this can often be examined and rectified by an ear, nose and throat doctor. However, it is necessary to test for a hearing impairment as the child cannot report it on their own.

If the language disorder has a psychological cause, it can help to wean the child off the fear. By creating a calming environment and repeatedly speaking without negative feedback, it is ensured that the child “unlearns” the trained fear.

If the speech disorder has motor reasons, the muscles can be strengthened through targeted exercises. A speech therapist can help. Speech therapists also promote vocabulary and fluency in a playful way.

Malformations in the tooth and jaw architecture may need to be corrected by a dentist or oral surgeon. Overall, it is also helpful to talk to the child slowly and speak clearly.

Looking at picture books together and naming objects also promotes the child's language development.

Read more about therapy at:

  • Speech therapy
  • Early intervention

The duration of speech disorders is difficult to generalize. Certain language disorders are normal in childhood during the language learning phase. These disorders usually go away by the age of six. If the speech disorder persists and the child is receiving treatment from a speech therapist, the speech disorder can be corrected.

How long this happens depends very much on the type of language disorder and the child's progress. However, a language disorder can sometimes be treated for years until language formation is correct.

If the speech disorder is the cause of hearing, hearing aid therapy can often remedy the speech disorder within a short period of time. In summary, it can be said that language disorders in children can be treated well and often go away on their own or in a relaxed environment.