Receptive Language refers to the comprehension of language, that is, your child’s understanding of spoken language. This begins with simple and concrete concepts. At age 12-15 months, children can follow simple instructions, such as “Come here” and “Give me the ____.” By age 2 to 2.5 years, children demonstrate understanding of basic spatial concepts such as “in” and “on”, can identify basic body parts on self/caregiver, understand early pronouns (me, my/mine, you), and can recognize simple actions. By age 3-4, children demonstrate the ability to follow more complex instructions, understand colors and qualitative concepts (more, most, tall, short), and can answer simple questions (e.g. “What?” and “Who?”) about a story. A 5-6 year-old child can answer simple “Why?” questions, point to pictures to infer how something may have happened, make predictions, and is starting to understand simple jokes (literal versus figurative meanings). If your child is showing difficulty in their comprehension abilities, your Speech-Language Pathologist can assess your child’s comprehension of language both formally and informally within their natural surroundings.
Expressive Language refers to the form, content, and social use of language. Content of language refers to the vocabulary range of words that your child is using. Form refers to the way that your child is combining strings of words, and the expansion of sentence structures. Expressive language development progresses from cooing in infancy, to babbling (”mama”, “dada”) plus unintelligible jargon at around 9-12 months, to first clear and deliberate words at around 12-17 months. From 1.5 to 2 years, there is a rapid expansion in spoken words and combining words. By age 2.5 years, children are using their words for a variety of pragmatic functions including naming (eg. “big doggie”), asking questions (eg. “Where Daddy go?”), and requesting (“More cookie”), in addition to using a variety of gestures to communicate such as pointing to draw your attention to something. By the age of 3 years, children are now including smaller words (eg. pronouns, is/are, “ing” verbs) within sentences that are more than 50% intelligible. By the time children start school at age 5, the majority are using complex sentence structures, describing past events “We went to….”, forming questions such as “Can I have….?”, and taking 3 turns in a conversational exchange. Children with expressive difficulties may experience frustration in not being able to communicate effectively with others, and in some cases behavioral issues can manifest such as pushing/grabbing rather than verbally requesting.
Should concerns in receptive and/or expressive language arise, your Speech-Language Pathologist will most often conduct both formal and informal assessment, and gather language sampling of your child’s utterances within familiar context. .