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Does your child have difficulty with language, speaking to others and/or understanding what others are saying?

  • What are communication disorders?
    • Children with communication disorders often have difficulty speaking and/or understanding others' speech. These difficulties may involve speech production (i.e., limited vocabulary or making errors in tense), comprehension (i.e., understanding sentences, words, or word concepts), or interpretation.1
    • There are several different types of communication disorders that present with different types of symptoms.1
      • Children and adolescents diagnosed with Expressive Language Disorder have a great deal of difficulty producing language, particularly compared to their ability to understand others' language and their level of measured intelligence.
      • Children and adolescents diagnosed with Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder have difficulties with both producing language and understanding or comprehending others' language.
      • Children and adolescents diagnosed with Phonological Disorder are not able to produce speech sounds appropriate to their developmental level (i.e., articulation difficulties, sound substitutions, disorganization or skipping of sounds).
      • Children and adolescents diagnosed with Stuttering make frequent and uncontrollable repetitions of certain words or sounds, lengthen or interject sounds, pause at sounds within words, and/or repeat entire words.
      • It is important to note that to be diagnosed with a communication disorder, the difficulties children may have with their speech and/or language abilities must interfere with their schooling and/or their ability to communicate with others.
  • How common are communication disorders in children and adolescents?
    • Communication disorders occur in different numbers of children and adolescents, depending on the age of the child and the disorder.1
      • Expressive Language Disorder, in the form of language delays, is very common in very young children, occurring in 10% to 15% of children under the age of 3 years. However, Expressive Language Disorder is less commonly diagnosed in children entering school, and is diagnosed in 3% to 7% of school-age children.
      • Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder has been estimated to be diagnosed in up to 5% of preschool children and 3% of school-age children.
      • Phonological Disorder has been diagnosed in approximately 2% of early elementary school children, but is diagnosed in less than 1% by early adulthood (age 17).
      • Stuttering has been diagnosed in approximately 1% of school-age children and is diagnosed in fewer than 1% of adolescents.
    • Expressive Language Disorder and Stuttering are more common in boys than in girls.1
    • While communication disorders are typically diagnosed in early childhood, less severe forms of the disorders may not be evidenced and diagnosed until adolescence.1
    • Communication disorders are more commonly diagnosed in children whose parents have been diagnosed with a communication and/or learning disorder.1


  • What can I do if my child has been diagnosed with a communication disorder?
    • Visit a pediatrician or your child's health care provider who can assess your child for a communication disorder. You may also want to visit http://otolaryngology.umc.edu/contact_us.html for more information. If you are outside the central MS area, please click on the following link(s) to learn about community mental health resources in your area: http://www.dmh.state.ms.us/pdf/CYSDirectory-Arial-9-15-08.pdf, http://www.nami.org/MSTemplate.cfm?Site=NAMI_Mississippi
    • Speech and language difficulties may arise as part of problems other than a communication disorder (i.e., hearing or other sensory problems, mental retardation, learning disabilities, developmental delay, stroke).1 As a result, it is important that as part of any communication disorders assessment that a thorough history be obtained.
    • Additionally, speech and language difficulties may be due to a medical problem, such as encephalitis, head trauma, irradiation, or a neurological condition.1 Therefore, it is very important that a thorough medical history be obtained when assessing a child or adolescent for a communication disorder.
    • The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDOC) hosts a website with links to several helpful organizations providing information for parents and families of children diagnosed with communication disorders. The NIDOC website (and list of resources) is found at http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/directory/.

1American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed. rev.). Washington, D. C.: Author.


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