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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the signs and symptoms of language disorders?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Serving the interests of children and young people with childhood language and related disorders View Profile

    Language disorders affect every child differently, with severity and presence of characteristics individual to each child. Some common signs and symptoms are as follows:
    Expressive Language

    Difficulty with:
    • Clear, intelligible speech
    • Using complete sentences with correct word order
    • Using correct grammatical structures
    • Logical, flowing speech
    • Using specific vocabulary to express themselves accurately
    • Initiating and maintaining conversation

    Receptive Language

    Difficulty with:
    • Following basic instructions
    • Understanding and attending to new information
    • Getting jokes and humour
    • Following conversation
    • Remembering
    • Reasoning and problem solving
    • Recalling facts and recounting

    • Unacceptable behaviours and frustration
    • Difficulty with focusing, attention and listening

    Developmental Co-ordination Difficulties (DCD, Dyspraxia)

    Difficulties with:
    • Whole-body movements and balance
    • Manipulative skills
    • Organisation and planning

    Social use of language

    Difficulty with:
    • Relating to others
    • Making & maintaining friendships
    • Social codes and accepted behaviours
    • Fast paced playground games
    • Literal understanding and use of language


    Difficulties with:
    • Rules and patterns of sequence, words, sounds and letter names
    • Reading and writing across the curriculum
    • Using a range of strategies for reading and spelling
    • Reading fluency
    • Comprehension and interpretation of written information
    • Accessing key information and formulating individual ideas
    • Sentence structure, describing and detail
    • Narrative

    Sensory Integration Difficulties

    • Visual: problems with tracking, shifting gaze and interpreting by looking
    • Auditory: problems with locating sounds, identifying and discriminating between sounds
    • Taste and smell: over- or under-reaction to particular tastes and smells, leading to restricted diet and  dislike of ‘hands-on’ activities
    • Tactile: over– or under-reaction to touch, dislike of hair or nails being cut, lack of
    awareness of nose running or food spilled on clothes, fiddling with everything
    • Vestibular/proprioceptive difficulties with balance and body awareness
    If you are concerned with your child’s language development, contact your GP, Paediatrician or local Speech Language Pathologist for advice.
    Fact sheet: ‘Signs of Primary Language Disorder’

  • 1


    Dr Michelle O'Brien

    Speech Pathologist

    We assist children develop speech, language, pre-literacy and literacy skills in readiness for life. We provide comprehensive speech pathology assessments and therapy in a relaxed … View Profile

    The previous response was very thorough in answering the question about signs and symptoms of a language disorder.

    One additional thing to watch out for is a child's behaviour.  Often children with a receptive language disorder (difficulties understanding what others are saying to them), will present as children who are ‘naughty’ both at home and in class.  They may be labelled as not paying attention, not showing interest in class activities, mucking around with other children etc.  When children have an underlying receptive language disorder, often they don't know what they need to do, don't listen (because they don't understand) what others are asking them to do, may not understand their peer interactions. This may result in a child becoming bored, so they ‘act’ out.  Children who are aware that they are having difficulties, may not want to apear ‘dumb’, so they become the class clown instead which is ‘cooler’…

    It is important that if a child is exhibiting the above symptoms, that their language is assessed to determine if there is an underlying disorder,


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