A child’s ability to process the sounds, words, and sentences they hear can ultimately affect their academic and social success. Deficits in language processing skills often present as a receptive and expressive language disorder, with a heavy reliance on pictures and visual cues to learn and recall information.
Some children seem to understand information, but then have difficulty accurately carrying out a task or following directions. Other children are successful in getting the “gist” of what they are hearing, but then have difficulties with their expressive language.
Expressive language difficulties can manifest in one or all areas of language, including semantics (vocabulary), syntax (word order), morphology (grammar), phonology (the sound system), or pragmatics (social skills). For example, a child might have difficulty finding the right word, or may use non-specific words, such as “that thing” when trying to communicate. Other children may have difficulty putting words in the correct order when talking, or using grammatical endings, such as the past tense (e.g., jumped).
How will a Speech-Language Therapist work on my child’s Language Processing skills? In general, the best way to improve a child’s ability to process language is through a systematic and intensive course of Speech-Language Therapy. A Speech-Language Pathologist will evaluate your child’s language and processing skills, and implement activities that help move your child from relying on visual cues to utilizing their auditory skills more effectively.
In addition, your Speech-Language Pathologist will assess which cues are most helpful for your child and use those to help your child reach their potential. Some compensatory cues might include; additional time, stimulus repetition, prompting them with questions (What sound does it start with? What does it look like?), giving them additional information, and lastly naming the target item for them. Ultimately, your child will learn to use few, if any, cues to help them process what is heard.
A Speech-Language Therapist might begin their therapy protocol with simple activities that encourage your child to label common items, and progress up to teaching your child to express an items function and category, as well as begin to make associations between items. These activities are designed to help your child re-organize their knowledge and make recalling information, learning new information, and expressing themselves an easy, efficient, and concise task.