What is a Spoken Language Disorder?:
A Spoken Language Disorder, or SLD, is an impairment in the use and understanding of language across the five language domains. An SLD may be lifelong, but symptoms can change over time. Therefore, it is important to monitor the symptoms of a child with an SLD. If a professional diagnosis suggests that an SLD is present, assessment and/or treatment on a regular basis is important. SLDs may be accompanied by other conditions, such as intellectual or developmental disabilities. When they occur without the presence of another condition, they are considered a Specific Language Impairment, or SLI. They may also occur with another language disorder or difficulties in reading and writing, and social communication could also be an issue.
Five Language Domains and Potential Deficits:
Phonology – Phonology is defined as the system of relationships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundamental components of a language.
Phonological deficits may include:
- Delay of phonological skills (unable to understand the differences or relationships among sounds).
- May vocalize less or with less complexities when they do speak than children their age
- (in younger children) problems with early speech sounds
- Difficulty learning speech sound systems that may progress into later life with poor skill sets and abilities
Morphology – Morphology is defined as the structure and construction of words, and skills that require an understanding and use of the appropriate structure of a word.
Syntax – Syntax is defined as the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.
Morphological and syntactic deficits may include:
- Late understanding of definitions
- Restricted mean length of utterance (MLU) (restricted number of morphemes per utterance (morphological unit that cannot be further divided or broken down)) and shorter utterances in words
- Errors in verbs, function words, and pronouns
- Errors of omission and misuse
- Difficulty comprehending grammatical morphemes
- Difficulty in understanding prefixes, suffixes, past, present, future markers, etc
- Difficulty in judging grammar mistakes and/or correcting them
- Difficulty in identifying parts of speech
- Problems comprehending syntactic structure
- Simple utterances and issues with comprehending complex words/utterances
Semantics – Semantics is defined as the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. There are a number of branches and subbranches of semantics, including formal semantics, which studies the logical aspects of meaning, such as sense, reference, implication, and logical form, lexical semantics, which studies word meanings and word relations, and conceptual semantics, which studies the cognitive structure of meaning.
Deficits in semantics may include:
- Slower vocabulary development
- Delayed first words or word combinations
- Delays in verb skills
- Difficulty understanding new words
- Overuse of filler words
- Difficulty in asking for clarification or understanding verbal questions
- Problems with figurative language, synonyms and antonyms, etc
- Problems with organization of thought process when it comes to expression
Pragmatics – Pragmatics refers to the branch of linguistics dealing with language in use and the contexts in which it is used, including such matters as deixis, taking turns in conversation, text organization, presupposition, and implicature.
Deficits in pragmatics may include:
- Difficulty in socializing or playing with peers
- Problems understanding others
- Immaturity in language
- Difficulty expressing oneself
- Difficulty initiating and sustaining conversation
- Trouble with turn taking in conversations
- Uncertainties about appropriate and inappropriate language/conversations
- Trouble with organization and story cohesion/connecting thoughts out loud
The Role of a Speech Therapist:
Speech therapists play a crucial role in evaluating, assessing, diagnosing, and treating children that have an SLD. They can provide resources to individuals and parents of individuals that have or are at risk of having an SLD, as to suggest treatment options or the need for an evaluation, and they conduct assessments maintained for your child and the diagnosis your child has if they do have an SLD or other language disorder. Speech therapists can also provide referrals for other services. Children with an SLD all have unique attributes, so a specialized treatment plan is often implemented during therapy.
Note: This is by no means a suggestion of self-diagnosis or unknowledgeable diagnosis of a child that may have an SLD or any other disorder or disability, and should not be used as a supplemental measure to diagnose any individual. If you believe that your child may have an SLD, visit a speech therapist for a professional evaluation. The information provided is strictly informational.