Receptive Language Disorders: What You Need to Know

Language is an essential part of human communication, and it plays a critical role in how we interact with the world around us. However, for some individuals, language development may be a significant challenge due to a receptive language disorder. They can be especially difficult to recognize and diagnose, as they require a deep understanding of how the brain processes and interprets information.

In this blog post, we will explore...

  • the definition of receptive language disorders,
  • their causes and symptoms, and
  • treatment options available and at-home strategies for navigating these disorders.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about receptive language disorders.
Receptive Language Disorders_ What You Need to Know

Receptive Language Disorder: Everything You Need To Know

Receptive language disorder (RLD) is one of the two main types of language disorders. It affects one’s ability to understand and process language. The other type, in contrast, is Expressive language disorder (ELD) which affects the ability to communicate and express one’s thoughts.

RLD is most common in preschool and school-age children. Boys are more likely to have it than girls, and those from lower-income families may also be more affected. About 25-50% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also have receptive language disorder. Symptoms include trouble following directions, understanding speech, and abstract concepts. Children with receptive language difficulties may also struggle with developing vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.

Understand Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of receptive language delays are not fully understood, but research suggests that genes and the child’s environment may be involved. Some risk factors that may lead to the condition include family history of speech or language delays, being born prematurely, hearing loss, and developmental delays. Others may develop a receptive language issues due to a brain injury or damage to the central nervous system. Environmental factors, such as a lack of exposure to language, can also contribute to the development of a receptive language disorder.

Getting help early is important, and research shows that early intervention can make a big difference for these children. Parents need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disorder so they can get help if their child is having trouble understanding what is said to them.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of this disorder can vary depending on the severity, but generally include:

    • Difficulty understanding spoken or written language,
    • Inability to comprehend the meaning of words and sentences,
    • Struggling to follow conversations,
    • Trouble answering questions appropriately,
    • Difficulty following directions or multi-step instructions,
    • Poor grammar skills,
    • Trouble with abstract concepts such as time or money, and
    • Challenges participating in social interactions due to difficulty understanding the context of a conversation.

To ensure your child’s symptoms are addressed appropriately, it is crucial to have them evaluated by a qualified medical professional.


The diagnosis of receptive language delays typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). The assessment may include a review of the child’s medical history, a hearing screening, and language assessments to measure comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.

They may also conduct observations of the child’s communication abilities in a variety of settings, including at home and at school. This evaluation can help the speech therapist determine the nature and severity of the kid’s receptive language issues, as well as create an individualized treatment plan for their specific needs.

What Are The Treatment Options for Receptive Language Disorders

What Are The Treatment Options?

There are several treatment options available for children with language difficulties. The most common treatment approach is speech-language therapy, which focuses on building language comprehension skills.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is a highly effective treatment for addressing speech and language delays. It is often the primary intervention and may involve a variety of strategies, including language-based activities, games, and exercises. The goal of therapy is to help the child understand and process language more effectively, improving their communication skills.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are trained professionals who specialize in assessing and treating communication disorders. Through the use of play-based activities, SLPs can assess and improve a person’s ability to comprehend spoken language while also teaching new words and concepts. They may also use video modeling to help individuals practice their verbal communication skills in real situations.

Other Interventions and Therapies

In addition to speech therapy, there are several other interventions and therapies that can help children with language disorders.

    • Behavioral therapy can increase language understanding and communication skills.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can modify thought processes to improve communication.
    • Social skills training can teach individuals how to interact better with others in various situations.
    • Occupational therapy can help develop and maintain physical skills for communication tasks.
    • Assistive technology like voice recognition software or computer programs providing visual cues can also be useful.

No matter which intervention or therapy is chosen, it is important for the child to have a supportive environment where they feel comfortable learning and practicing new skills.

Medication Options

Medication may be prescribed to help children with RLD. Although there is no single drug that can cure the disorder, some medications may improve concentration and focus, reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, and increase attention span. It is important to discuss any potential side effects of medications with your child’s doctor, as well as any questions about their effectiveness. Medication can be an effective tool for managing receptive language disorder with careful consideration and monitoring by a medical professional.

Strategies to Help Children with Receptive Language Difficulties

Strategies to Help Children with Receptive Language Difficulties

To complement treatment and help improve your child’s receptive language skills, here are several strategies you can try at home:

  • Use visual aids, such as pictures or drawings, to help the child understand and remember information. These aids can be used to illustrate concepts, provide examples, or offer visual cues that reinforce verbal instructions.
  • Break down complex instructions into smaller, more manageable steps. By presenting information in smaller chunks, it is easier to follow along and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • Provide support by using simple language, speaking at a slower pace, and giving clear and concise instructions. The use of nonverbal cues, such as gestures, can also help convey meaning and support understanding.
  • Ask your child to repeat back instructions or restate concepts to ensure understanding.
  • Rephrase and repeat instructions or concepts as needed. Caregivers, educators, or peers may need to adjust their communication style to suit the child’s needs.
  • Encourage active listening through activities such as summarizing or retelling a story. By practicing these skills, children can learn to better organize and recall information presented to them.
  • Practice social skills in different settings to improve communication with peers and adults. This can include role-playing activities, practicing conversational skills, or participating in group activities.
  • Utilize technology such as text-to-speech or speech recognition software to assist with communication.

Receptive language development can be a challenging journey, but it can also be a rewarding one. With the right diagnosis, treatment, and support, your child can have improved receptive language skills and overall social communication skills.

If you suspect that your child may need help with their language skills, apply for a consultation with one of our qualified Speech-Language Pathologists. By working together, we can help your child achieve their full potential and lead a fulfilling life.

Related Post:

Lauren Templeton - Apheleia Speech Therapy
Lauren Templeton

Owner & Speech-Language Pathologist

Get Started and See How it All Works

Fill out the form below to be taken to a short questionnaire. You can also send us an Email or text/call us at (613) 707-9211.

**By filling out this form you consent that we may contact you at the email and/or phone number provided.

Apheleia Contact Form