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Learning Disabilities in Expressive Language

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Updated June 03, 2014

Students writing in classroom
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Definition of Expressive Language Disorder:

Expressive Language Disorder is a learning disability affecting communication of thoughts using spoken and sometimes basic written language and expressive written language. This disorder involves difficulty with language processing centers of the brain. Expressive language disorders can result from inherited conditions or may be caused by brain injuries or stroke.

Characteristics of Expressive Language Disorder:

People with expressive language disorders may understand what is said to them or written in passages, but they have substantial difficulty communicating. They have difficulty with language processing and the connection between words and ideas they represent. Some people may also have problems with pronunciation of words.

Some students with expressive language disorders may also have difficulty with receptive language.

Treatment Expressive Language Disorders:

Evaluation can provide information to help educators develop effective strategies. Typical strategies focus on language therapy to develop the important concepts necessary to communicate. Vocabulary development, rehearsal, and practice of using language in social situations are often helpful therapeutic methods.

Students with substantial communication disorders may require extensive specially designed instruction on their IEPs. Language processing disorders may play a role in dyslexia and autism.

Expressive Language Disorder Myths:

People with Expressive Language Disorder may appear less capable than they really are because they cannot effectively express themselves. Except in rare cases, their understanding of language and subjects in school is often as well-developed as that of other learners their age.

Assessment of Expressive Language Disorders:

Diagnostic writing and speech/language tests can be used to determine what specific types of language difficulty are affecting the learner's communication skills. Through observations, analyzing student work, cognitive assessment, and occupational therapy evaluations, speech pathologists and teachers can develop individualized therapy and education programs that will help the student learn.

What To Do Next:

If you believe you or your child has an Expressive Language Disorder and may have a learning disability that requires special education, contact your school principal or counselor for information on how to request an assessment. For students in college and vocational programs, their school's advising office can assist with finding resources to help ensure their success. Students with expressive language deficits and other learning disabilities will need to develop self-advocacy skills.

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