Preschool Language Disorder

Over the past few months I have seen more and more preschool age children coming to our office for language evaluations. Many of these evaluations have been due to parental concerns with their child’s inability to communicate with age-matched peers, as well as express their feelings, wants, and needs.   Below you will find some information about preschool language disorders, their causes, and what can be done to help a child who suffers from a language disorder… ENJOY!!

What are preschool language disorders?

Children with preschool language disorders often have trouble understanding and talking.

What are some signs or symptoms of preschool language disorders?

Some children have problems with understanding, (receptive language), these individuals have difficulties with:

  • Understanding what gestures mean
  • Following directions
  • Answering questions
  • Identifying objects and pictures
  • Taking turns when talking with others

Some children have problems talking, (expressive language), these individuals have difficulties with:

  • Asking questions
  • Naming objects
  • Using gestures
  • Putting words together into sentences
  • Learning songs and rhymes
  • Using correct pronouns, like “he” or “they”
  • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going

Not only do children display difficulties with expressive and receptive language, but parents and teachers may observe difficulties with reading and writing.  Some of these difficulties include:

  • Holding a book right side up
  • Looking at pictures in a book and turning pages
  • Telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end
  • Naming letters and numbers
  • Learning the alphabet

How are preschool language disorders evaluated?

Speech-language pathologists, also called SLPs, usually are part of a team. The team includes you, the child’s teacher, and other professionals. The team can see if your child’s language skills are at age level. SLPs evaluate children while they play. They want to know:

Some of the areas that may be assessed/ looked into are:

  • Follows directions
  • Names common objects and actions
  • Knows colors, numbers, and letters
  • Follows routines like putting his coat away or sitting during circle time
  • Sings songs or repeats nursery rhymes
  • Gets needs met at home, during play, and at preschool

SLPs will see if your child’s speech is easy to understand. They will see how your child uses her lips, tongue, and teeth to make sounds. They will have your child imitate sounds or words.

For early reading and writing, the SLP will see if your child:

  • Looks at and talks about pictures in books
  • Recognizes familiar signs and logos
  • Holds a book correctly and turns the pages
  • Recognizes and writes his or her own name
  • Tries to write letters and numbers

How are preschool language disorders treated?

SLPs can help children with language disorders. They work on language problems found during the evaluation. They work with you, teachers, and other professionals to improve speech and language skills. Good language skills help with learning, behavior, self- esteem, and social skills.

Here are some possible treatment goals:

  • Increase your child’s understanding and use of language
  • Teach caregivers, family members, and teachers ways to communicate with your child
  • Help your child use other ways to communicate when needed. This may include simple gestures, picture boards, or computers that say words out loud. This is also called augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.

What can I do to help?

Here are some language tips:

  • Talk a lot your child. This will help your child learn new words.
  • Read to your child every day.
  • Point out words you see. Point to signs in the grocery store, at school, and outside.
  • Speak to your child in the language you know best.
  • Listen and respond when your child talks.
  • Encourage your child to ask you questions.
  • Give your child time to answer questions.
  • Set limits for watching TV and using electronic media. Use the time for talking and reading together.

What causes preschool language disorders?

Often the cause of a language disorder in not known. Some causes of preschool language disorders may be:

  • Family history of language disorders
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth-weight
  • Hearing loss
  • Autism
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Syndromes, like Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Tumors
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Poor nutrition
  • Failure to thrive

What are the types of preschool language disorders?

Problems with understanding are called receptive language disorders. Problems with talking are called expressive language disorders. Children may have problems with both. Sometimes a language disorder is called specific language impairment, or SLI.

Types of preschool language disorders may include problems with:

  • Understanding basic concepts, questions, and directions
  • Learning new words
  • Saying words in the right order
  • Having conversations and telling stories


Information obtained from:


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