Developmental expressive language disorder is a condition in which a child has lower than normal ability in vocabulary, saying complex sentences, and remembering words. However, a child with this disorder may have the normal language skills needed to understand verbal or written communication.
Developmental expressive language disorder is common in school-age children.
The causes are not well understood. Damage to the cerebrum of the brain and malnutrition may cause some cases. Genetic factors may also be involved.
Children with an expressive language disorder have a hard time getting their meaning or message across to others.
Symptoms of this disorder may include any of the following:
- Below-average vocabulary skills
- Improper use of tenses (past, present, future)
- Problems making complex sentences
- Problems remembering words
Exams and Tests
Standardized expressive language and nonverbal intellectual tests should be conducted if an expressive language disorder is suspected. Testing for other learning disabilities may also be needed.
Language therapy is the best method to treat this type of disorder. The goal is to increase the number of phrases a child can use. This is done by using block-building techniques and speech therapy.
How much the child recovers depends on the severity of the disorder. With reversible factors, such as vitamin deficiencies, there may be nearly full recovery.
Children who do not have any other developmental or motor coordination problems have the best outlook (prognosis). Often, such children have a family history of delays in language milestones, but eventually catch up.
This disorder may lead to:
- Learning problems
- Low self-esteem
- Social problems
When to Contact a Medical Professional
If you are concerned about a child's language development, have the child tested.
Good nutrition during pregnancy, and early childhood and prenatal care may help.
Language disorder - expressive; Specific language impairment
Simms MD. Language development and communication disorders. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 52.
Trauner DA, Nass RD. Developmental language disorders. In: Swaiman KF, Ashwal S, Ferriero DM, et al, eds. Swaiman's Pediatric Neurology: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 53.
Review Date 6/7/2022
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.