Signs & Symptoms

Expressive Language

Is your child trying to talk but the words don't come out right?

Some children have trouble saying what they want to say. Expressive language problems can be common in children. If verbal expression is an issue, your child may frequently say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” when trying to express his or her thoughts.

It may be that your child understands what you are asking but cannot come up with an appropriate response. Your child may have a hard time identifying the appropriate vocabulary to create long and complex sentences. He may have trouble describing exactly what he wants to say.

Your child may struggle with remembering words. He may not use verb tenses, such as past, present, and future, appropriately. Due to problems with verb tense, he may have difficulty writing stories and describing an event that happened.

For example, he may say, “I am going fishing” when he means that he went fishing yesterday. If talking about an event that may happen this upcoming weekend, he may use the past tense. The listener may need to clarify if the event has already happened or will happen.

The child may not be able to use the correct words and may get frustrated. Sometimes, children with an expressive language disorder use words incorrectly because they don’t understand what they mean. Some children use pronouns incorrectly when referring to others in a conversation or in writing.

A child may be very conscious of his or her language difficulties and may even be hesitant to make new friends or to engage in social activities due to the difficulty with communication skills.

She may limit conversation with others or may cry easily when constantly misunderstood. Some children with these challenges use a sibling to communicate their ideas.

Sometimes, it might appear that a child doesn’t care about something, but in reality he or she is just intimidated by the language required to participate.

What do challenges with Expressive Language look like?

  • Saying, “I don’t know,” “I don’t remember” or “I can’t say it!”
  • Having a hard time explaining what he wants to say?
  • Struggling to express his thoughts in full sentences that make sense?
  • Demonstrating challenges with verb tense, grammar, or pronouns?
  • Finding it difficult to come up with words or describe things?
  • Forgetting words?
  • Not speaking until age two or three?
  • Getting frustrated, having lots of ideas that she just can’t get out?

Why is Expressive Language happening?

Expressive language is essentially the ability to say what you want to say. As the name implies, it is the ability to ‘express’ oneself. Individuals who have trouble with these skills may know fewer vocabulary words to express their thoughts or feelings. They may use words incorrectly, saying ‘childs’ for children or ‘gooses’ for geese. They might say things in a jumbled up order, making it sound confusing for the listener. An expressive language disorder  may be present if the individual demonstrates difficulty expressing oneself verbally and in written language. It is characterized by a limited or decreased vocabulary for the person’s age, difficulty utilizing pronouns appropriately, and trouble with the following: verb forms, plurals, and the rules or content of language. This person may appear to be shy or to not speak much because it is difficult to get his or her ideas out clearly. If the individual has time pressure to answer a question or to complete a written task, performance may be affected. Speech and language therapy is often needed to help these individuals work on these important communication skills.

How can I manage Expressive Language at home?

If you suspect your child is having trouble with expressive language, talk with your pediatrician for a referral to see a speech language pathologist.

If your child is in school, talk to your child’s teacher about meeting with the school speech language pathologist, who can determine if an evaluation is necessary. The school special education team, which would include a learning specialist and psychologist, could also determine if any further testing may be necessary to rule out other possible disabilities.

Expressive language disorder can affect all academic areas. Speaking in class, written language tasks, and social communication can be impacted. Your child may not choose to socialize much with other children his age because it may be difficult to communicate ideas easily, and he may prefer to play alone or with family who understands him easily. If your child is experiencing these challenges at school, consult with the teacher early and often.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Expressive Language?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, life-skills practice, and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.

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