Issues in Childhood and Adolescence


Childhood and teenage periods are characterized by several challenges ranging from biological to social.  Among the disorders known to exist in childhood and sometimes extending to teenage are related to communication. Expressive language disorder is one of the communication disorders in childhood and teenage. As a communication disorder, its major characteristic is difficulties in self-expression through the means of speech. The disorder is also characterized by the existence of limited scope of vocabulary and grammar.

Developmental expressive language disorder and acquired expressive language disorder are the two forms of expressive language disorder. Developmental expressive language disorder mostly occurs when the child is learning how to talk while acquired expressive language disorder can occur at any stage. Unlike developmental, acquired expressive language disorder has some known causes, which include stroke and traumatic head injury. Acquired expressive language disorder is normally not found in children, it can occur at any given period of ones life (Davidson, 2003).Expressive language disorder can be classified, assessed and treated accordingly.

Classification and assessment of the disorder

Communication disorders are some of the challenges that many children grapple with during their stages of development. Expressive language disorder falls within the category of various disorders associated with communication. There are varying symptoms of the disorder depending on the child. Developmental expressive language disorder does not have a real known cause. However, research to establish the real cause of the disorder is ongoing.  The basis for the research on developmental expressive language disorder is the environmental and biological factors. As the child grows and reaches the period of speech development, expression through speech becomes a major hurdle. One differentiating factor between expressive language disorder and other communication disorders such as the phonological disorder is that the child does not have any challenge in having a coherent sentence construction. At most, a child suffering the disorder has capabilities such as recalling rightful words for application in a sentence. However, the impacts of the disorder are usually clear when it comes to the incorporation of thoughts, needs and wants at the anticipated level or the level with which the peers demonstrate their understanding. The child may also show a limitation in vocabulary collection in comparison to the peers (ACPP, 2000).

Normally, there is almost a similar speech understanding ability for children suffering from expressive language disorder and their peers. Similarly, there is no significant difference in the level of intelligence between these children and their peers.  Therefore, there is likelihood that the child is able to comprehend the implications of words used in a sentence; without the ability to use the same complex words in sentences of their own. The manifestation of expressive language disorder is in different ways. In spite of there being differing traits between children with the disorder, there are some traits which apply to a reasonable number of children with the disorder. For example, a common characteristic may exist where children completely fail to use pronouns in their sentences. At the same time, is a possibility that some children may leave out some functional words in the sentence. Some of these functional words include: as and the.

One characteristic apparent in most of the children suffering expressive language disorder is the inability to remember what words need to be substituted for others in a sentence. This results to the use of general words instead. It is not uncommon for these children to replace words such as things with stuff. The organization of the sentences that children suffering the disorder produce is normally awkward. The sentences are mostly difficult to comprehend due to the poor organization that they portray. Perhaps the challenge that the children suffering from expressive language disorder portray stems from the children’s failure to understand the content of their implied messages. If in the first place they cannot comprehend the implication of their intended material, it is obvious that their sentences will not deliver an understandable meaning. Therefore, the creation of meaningful sentences for the expression of the thoughts is a nightmare for these children.

An assessment of the number of the class of children who suffer from the disorder reveal that delay in language development often registered in 10-15% of all the children below the age of three. For school age children, the delay is usually 3-7%. The interesting fact is that the disorder is it occurs two to five times in boys than in girls (Stein, Parker, & Feldman, 2001). Often, developmental expressive language disorder is not as common as the acquired type. One of the concerns prompting the assessment of a child for the disorder is performance below the peers’ level in communication in form of speech. The most challenging thing about the assessment and diagnosis of the problem is the fact that the child has the ability to grasp the material to some extent without the ability to express the understanding. Thus, it is a crucial requirement that for a successful assessment and diagnosis to be done, non-verbal tests need to be employed. This also takes into account the application of tests requiring spoken answers. One more factor requiring assessment is the hearing ability of the children; if a child has hearing problems, it may becomes difficult for him to express himself fluently.


A number of therapies exist for effective handling of the disorder. Basic treatment therapies embrace two methodologies: one-on-one child involvement with a therapist in speech as well as routine exercise in speech and communication and the participation of parents and teachers in fostering the most appropriate spoken language to the child. For instance, if the diagnosis shows that mild hearing impairment is the cause of the problem, use of hearing aids by the child is encouraged. Similarly, the capability of a child to communicate in a certain language used in home environment should be addressed especially if the children know another language besides the one used at home. Most importantly, the services of a therapist are very useful. The professional will apply the most effective and perfect tools meant for the benefit of the children.

A regular schedule with a therapist can totally alter the condition of the child and efficiently offer a lasting solution for the disorder. Developmental expressive language disorder should not be regarded very dangerous. It rarely goes beyond high school level. Some minor problems of the disorder may never get resolved through any of the available therapies. As there are no explicit causes of the developmental expressive disorder, there are no particular prevention methods. However, a measure for the prevention of brain damage is efficient in preventing acquired expressive language disorder (APA, 2000).


Expressive language disorder can be in both children and adults. For the adults, the problem may be because of the intense brain damage. Treatment at this stage is quite complex and the chances of full recovery are minimal. Developmental expressive language disorder is mostly found in children and often in children who are developing speech abilities. The disorder is known to be short term and ends by the time a child is in high school. Some simple therapeutic measures can be undertaken in treating the disorder. They range from the participation of parents and teachers in promoting the rightful language in the child to the involvement of professional therapists. The professionals offer efficient and effective therapies whose results are much reliable in consideration of the seriousness of the condition in a child.























American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th ed. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry (ACPP). (2000). The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved on Sunday, November 08, 2009. From

Davidson, A.M. (2003). Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders Detroit: The Gale Group Inc. Retrieved on Sunday, November 08, 2009.  From,

Stein, M., Parker, C. & Feldman, H. (2001). Expressive Language Delay in a Toddler, Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 22 no. 2.


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