Is It a Grammar Problem? A Look at Expressive Language Disorder

January 5, 2018By: VocoVision

Putting complicated ideas into language isn’t easy. Both children and adults will find themselves struggling with certain parts of grammar such as “I” or “me” (Joan and I vs Joan and me) or verb tense such as “will” or “good”. The struggle, unfortunately, may become a grammar disorder when children don’t lose their babyish way of speaking by the time they are five or six.

A Common Childhood Disorder

It’s estimated that as much as five percent of school-age children have an expressive language disorder, making it one of the more common language disorders among children. A child with an expressive language disorder typically has below-average vocabulary skills but understands verbal or written communication.

The issue mainly lies in grammar usage; they may say something similar to “I not goin’ school today,” or “Him kick ball.”  Children with this type of expressive language disorder difficulty with language or grammar rules.

Finding the Right Words

The English language and its rules are complex; word endings can change a meaning and we use contractions and the letter “s” to make something plural or show ownership. The majority of people learn the rules through listening to people speak and then imitating what they’ve heard. Though for some children, it doesn’t work that way.

Learning language isn’t necessarily an intentional or direct process. It makes sense that a child who already struggles with word rules to experience problems with words that don’t follow the rules.

Signs of a Grammar Problem

  • Regular verbs to irregular verbs – “I gived my mom a hug,” instead of “I gave my mom a hug.”
  • Leave out words at the beginning of a question – “You have candy?” instead of “Do you have candy?”
  • Confuse has and have“Daddy have a cold” instead of “Daddy has a cold.”
  • Leave out a, an, the in sentences – “I have balloon.”
  • Use the wrong pronoun – “Her is my friend” instead of “She is my friend.”

While this is not a complete list, you may see your child exhibit one or a combination of these characteristics. Only when it’s persistent, constant, and in a child older than five should you be concerned about a grammar problem.

You may be able to understand what your child is saying and even become used to it so you may think he or she will grow out of it. Though once your child gets older and begins written communication his inner voice may tell him to write what he says. The child’s struggle with internalizing language rules for speaking may affect him socially and academically.

A speech-language pathologist can zero in on one skill at a time to work through. It may take weeks or months to work through difficulties and work their newfound skills into conversational and written speech. With the proper therapy, most children are able to overcome an expressive language disorder.

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