Language Disorders in Children: Causes, Symptoms, and Interventions

Language disorders in children often start before the age of 3. If detected early and intervened promptly, children can improve their language and communication skills. In some cases, language disorders may not be completely overcome but can be improved through intervention measures.

What is language disorder in children?

Language disorder in children refers to any abnormal issues related to language caused by damage to the central nervous system. Language disorder is different from speech disorder (speech disorder) – a disease related to the motor process of expressing and developing language, which is entirely not caused by damage to the central nervous system.

Language disorder usually starts early within the first 3 years of life. The causes of the disease are diverse, but it can be completely treated if intervened early and properly. In some cases, language disorders can only be partially improved, and the child will have to live with this condition for life.

In recent years, the rate of children with language disorders has increased significantly. The main reason is that parents spend too little time with their children, and children are exposed early to electronic devices such as computers, iPads, smartphones, brain damage, etc. Besides, the early imposition of English learning also causes children to be linguistically disordered, not knowing how to use language properly and for the right purpose.

Causes of language disorders in young children

Similar to other developmental disorders, experts have not found the cause of language disorders in young children. However, some causes and factors have been identified as related to this pathology.

What is a language disorder in children?

Forcing children to learn a foreign language too soon can be the cause of language disorders

Causes of language disorders in young children:

  • Developmental disorders with language impairment, such as autism spectrum disorder, Rett syndrome, etc.
  • Brain damage due to injury, brain tumors, and other neurological disorders
  • Congenital syndromes such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, etc.
  • Family history of language disorders or similar conditions
  • Complications during birth such as premature birth, low birth weight, birth asphyxia, etc.
  • Early exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones, TVs, computers, iPads, etc.
  • Lack of communication opportunities for young children due to insufficient time spent with family
  • Early pressure to learn English, inadequate scientific learning programs leading to language disorders and difficulties in communication

The direct cause of language disorders in young children is damage to the central nervous system, leading to the loss of integrity of the cerebral hemisphere. As a result, the child’s language ability is impaired and disordered.

Signs of language disorders in children

In the early years of life, a child’s language abilities develop very quickly. Therefore, parents can easily recognize any abnormalities in young children. Similar to other developmental disorders, the symptoms of language disorders will vary in each child.

Symptoms of language disorders in young children include:

  • Language disorders can manifest in various aspects such as hearing disorders, language structure disorders, and communication abilities.
  • The symptoms of language disorders typically begin early, and most occur before the age of 3-4 years.
  • The first sign of a child with a language disorder is a slow understanding of other people’s speech.
  • The child may have difficulty pronouncing certain words or sentences.
  • The child may have speech disorders such as grammatical errors, unusual speech patterns, stuttering, slow speech, and lisping.
  • Some children may have meaningless speech, jumbled speech, echolalia, or talk to themselves.
  • Children with language disorders may not pay attention to those who are speaking to them. They may not listen to others and instead focus on playing and talking to themselves.
  • Children may have no interest in listening to books read by their parents because they cannot understand the meaning of the words.
  • Due to the inability to understand spoken language, children may not follow instructions correctly and may not comply with their parents’ or teachers’ requests.

Generally, children develop language skills quickly and can communicate fluently by the age of 3-4. Therefore, parents can use some milestones to determine if their child has a language disorder or other developmental disorders.

Warning signs of language disorders:

  • At 12 months, the child does not imitate or babble.
  • At 18 months, the child cannot speak complete words (clear and meaningful).
  • At 24 months, the child can only say a few simple words, does not know words with two syllables, and communicates mainly through gestures (pointing, waving, using facial expressions).
  • At 30 months, the child can only say simple words, cannot speak complex words clearly, and has a limited vocabulary (usually less than 50 words).
  • At 36 months, the child can only use two-word phrases, cannot use language to express desires, and parents can understand the child through body language and habits, but strangers can hardly understand the child’s words.

Usually, children begin to learn to speak at around 2-3 months old. At this time, the child will babble, but most of the sounds are meaningless. By around 7-9 months old, the child can say simple and easy-to-pronounce words like “ma-ma,” “ba-ba,” “yum-yum,” etc. From 12-15 months old, the child can say simple words and begin to speak short phrases. By the age of 3, the child can speak longer sentences and use language to express desires.

Does language disorder affect children?

Language is one of the crucial factors in a child’s development. It is only through language that a child can form connections and interact with those around them. Additionally, language is the means by which a child absorbs knowledge, expresses emotions, desires, and increases their awareness of everything around them.

Language disorder can make it difficult for children to communicate, learn, make friends, and maintain relationships. The extent of the impact of this condition will depend on the severity of the disorder in each child. However, in most cases, children with language disorders face significant consequences such as:

language disorders in children causes

Language disorders in children can lead to learning disorders and cause many difficulties in integration

  • Most children with language disorders face difficulties in learning.
  • Due to the inability to communicate effectively, children tend to withdraw, lack confidence, become shy, and have no friends.
  • They also struggle to make friends and maintain relationships.
  • Poor language skills make it difficult for children to absorb knowledge from lessons and the environment around them.
  • Inability to express emotions and thoughts to those around them can lead to emotional and behavioral disorders. In fact, many children with language disorders exhibit symptoms of irritability, hyperactivity, and anger.
  • They may also be prone to depression due to pent-up emotions and a lack of ways to express themselves.

Language disorders in children have a significant impact on cognitive and personality development. Therefore, it is important for families to seek early diagnosis and treatment for their children. In cases of simple language disorders, improvement can be seen within a few months to a year with timely treatment.

However, if the language disorder is associated with autism or other developmental disorders, it is likely that the child will have to deal with this condition for life. Nevertheless, early intervention with specialized therapy and education can help children significantly improve their language skills.

Interventions for language disorders in children

Language disorders in children should be addressed as early as possible. According to experts, the best time for intervention is before the age of 5. At this stage, a child’s language is still developing. If timely intervention is provided, the child’s language and communication abilities can be significantly improved.

The treatment of language disorders in children depends largely on the underlying cause. In addition to improving language skills, interventions can also help children overcome anxiety, lack of confidence, and inappropriate behaviors and emotions.

Common interventions for language disorders in children include:

  1. Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is the primary method for treating language disorders in children. This approach can be used for language disorders caused by autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, cancer, and many other causes.

Speech therapy is designed to help children improve their communication skills, which can help them learn and function more easily. Developing language skills also provides a foundation for increasing cultural awareness, improving cognitive abilities, and learning new information more quickly.

language disorders in children causes

Speech therapy is the most effective intervention for speech disorders in children

Currently, language therapy has become more popular and widely applied to improve language disorders in various populations. If intervened early, the language ability of children can be significantly improved and sometimes fully restored.

In the World, most pediatric hospitals and some centers have implemented speech therapy, also known as language therapy. In addition to therapy sessions in clinics/hospitals, families should also support children in improving their pronunciation and communication skills. Usually, parents will be instructed by experts on specific techniques to facilitate therapy for children at home.

  1. Treat related conditions

Language disorders in children are often associated with medical conditions such as brain trauma, brain tumors, cerebral palsy, autism, and other health issues. In some cases, language disorders are just a group of symptoms. Therefore, besides language therapy, children need to be treated for related health issues.

For example, children with autism will have language impairment, cognitive, behavioral, and social interaction deficits. Along with language improvement, interventions and therapies should be combined to help change shaping behaviors, increase eye-hand coordination, emotional control, and enhance awareness of the environment.

Controlling related medical conditions will help achieve better treatment outcomes for language disorders. Meanwhile, if only language is targeted, the child’s condition will progress slowly and improvements will be less noticeable.

  1. Psychological Therapy

Children with language disorders often have behavioral and emotional disturbances because they do not know how to express their feelings and desires verbally. In the long run, repressed emotions can make children irritable, hot-tempered, aggressive, and engage in hostile or violent behaviors.

Psychological therapy can help children with language disorders release their emotions in a healthy way. Specialists can also teach children some ways to express their emotions so that others can understand their feelings and thoughts. Psychotherapy can also help children become more open, improve their lack of confidence, and become less withdrawn.

language disorders in children causes

Children with language disorders will receive psychotherapy to relieve emotions and change inappropriate behaviors

In addition, this method also plays an important role in improving inappropriate behaviors related to developmental disorders. Depending on the specific condition and age of each child, experts will find the most appropriate intervention approach.

Psychotherapy is only part of the treatment plan. Therefore, families need to have their children participate in language therapy and other biomedical interventions to improve overall functioning. Only then can language and other aspects of the disorder be significantly improved.

How to prevent language disorders in children?

There is no completely effective way to prevent language disorders, especially those related to Rett syndrome, autism, and congenital disorders. However, parents can prevent these disorders in children through some simple measures:

  • Spending time with children, especially during the ages of 1 to 5 years old, is crucial for their language, cognitive, and social development. Parents’ involvement during this time helps children develop more smoothly and minimizes potential developmental issues.
  • It’s important to limit young children’s exposure to electronic devices such as TVs, computers, smartphones, etc. Instead, children should be encouraged to read books and play age-appropriate games.
  • Encourage children to play with friends or animals to stimulate their desire to communicate, speak, and learn how to pronounce and remember words more quickly.
  • When teaching children to speak, parents should speak clearly and avoid intentionally using speech impediments for the child to imitate. This habit may cause the child to develop a speech impediment later in life.
  • In addition to verbal communication, parents should teach children how to express themselves through gestures and facial expressions.
  • If children are uncomfortable imitating their parents’ speech, they can learn to speak through songs or nursery rhymes. Music can increase their interest and help them absorb information quickly.
  • Families should regularly organize games with the participation of parents, siblings, and other family members to increase interaction between children and other members. Group games also help children become more confident and sociable, providing a foundation for them to integrate and make friends when they start school.
  • Parents should ensure proper nutrition for their children and encourage them to play outdoors to improve their health.
  • It’s important to pay attention to any abnormal issues related to children’s hearing, chewing, swallowing, etc., and seek medical attention and treatment promptly.

Language disorders in children have been increasing in recent years. To promote healthy development, parents should take their children for early check-ups and therapy. Additionally, creating a healthy living environment is crucial for children’s comprehensive development in language, cognition, behavior, and more.

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