Specific language disorder: causes, types and symptoms

The development of language as a communication mechanism is an essential stage in our development that a large part of people go through throughout their evolution and maturation.

However, there are a large number of children who have serious difficulties in learning to use it both orally and in writing and even in understanding it, experiencing a considerable delay in this regard compared to what one would expect in subjects of his age. These are children who suffer from a specific language disorder, or TEL.

    Specific language disorder: what is it?

    We call specific language disorder or SU this situation in which there are serious difficulties in expressive or understandable language which are not due to any neurological, psychic or sensory impairment in children with normative intellectual capacity. Boys and girls with this disorder have a lower level of language than would be appropriate for their age group and maintain normative development in other functions and areas.

    In specific language disorder, also known as infantile dysphasia or in DSM simply as a language disorder, there are difficulties in using and learning language in all its forms both in oral and written language. The existence of a reduced vocabulary is generally perceived, as well as the use of grammatical structures that are deficient and with difficulty in developing a speech (for example, it is difficult for them to connect sentences to maintain a conversation or develop a topic) . These problems don’t come from a lack of interest in communication either, and they often try to do so.

    Although all language types are presented as modified, the main affectation occurs in oral language. This is not a simple delay: those who suffer from it usually have a different pattern of development of this skill. He is persistent, and although he is a minor, he has had difficulty in this area. It is especially important to keep in mind that this is not a voluntary action or that it implies a lack of effort on the part of the child. The difficulties arise at the syntactic, morphological, phonological, semantic and / or pragmatic levels. Difficulties can also arise in other areas such as arithmetic.

    Although the disorder does not involve the presence of other alterations beyond language difficulties, the specific language disorder it can have repercussions on your social and academic life. They have difficulty in school and may perform poorly at school or at work because of it, in addition to limiting their social life. If this problem is not resolved, the observed delays can end up generating serious limitations in the subject’s life as the level of social demand increases. They may appear to be emotional issues because of these facts.

      Tel subtype

      Not all people who suffer from TEL have the same kinds of difficulties. Depending on the problems presented by the child, we can establish different subtypes of specific language disorder. It should be noted that currently the diagnosis proposed by the DSM is that of a language disorder such as one of the communication disorders, Assign some of the characteristics of the following subtypes to other disorders (such as a phonological disorder or a social communication disorder).

      In all cases, it makes it possible to visualize the great heterogeneity of the difficulties which can arise in a TEL. One of the most well-known classifications is as follows.

      1. Expressive language disorder

      People with this specific language disorder subtype have marked limitations in language production without any comprehension problems. Within this, we generally consider the disorder of phonological programming in which the production of language is fluid but of deformed joint or verbal dyspraxia in which joint difficulty they make speech something strange or even absent. Non-verbal communication is usually not impaired and their sub-vocal speech (i.e. their language internally) is preserved.

      2. Mixed expressive-receptive or phonologico-syntactic language disorder

      In general, it is considered that if there are problems in understanding the language, there are also serious difficulties in production or expression. In this type of disorder, therefore, difficulties can be observed both in the development of speech and in its comprehension.

      3. Disorder of the central processing and training process

      It is a specific language disorder subtype in which one can observe different problems that do not fully correspond to understanding or expressing the language, but aspects such as the presence of modified syntax and slight stuttering (Lexical-syntactic disorder) or comprehension difficulties due to the literality with which the language is extended or does not adapt to situations (semantic-pragmatic disorder).

        Treatment and therapies

        Treatment for a specific language disorder involves first assessing their abilities and ruling out the existence of different problems that may influence the ability to understand, and then working from different areas of speech therapy.

        More precisely, it will be sought stimulate vocabulary acquisition the design of different activities and strategies that help skills they struggle with while improving those in which they stand out most. It can be useful to have visual aids allowing a better understanding of the contents during the teaching, a work on the phonological awareness.

        The intervention must be intensive and continuous over time, and it is important to have the support and participation of the school and the family. In the latter case, it should be noted that the child does not have these problems due to laziness or lack of motivation, and negative comments about his abilities can cause suffering and anxiety in such a way as to limit and inhibit communication with others. It may be necessary to address psychologically possible self-esteem issues and behavior to have a better self-image.

        The education of these children goes through mainstream school in most cases, although their difficulties must be taken into account and they generally require the use of individualized plans which tailor their program to their abilities.

        Bibliographical references:

        • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
        • Aguado, G. (2004). Specific language disorder: language delay and dysphasia. (Pp. 15-28). Malaga. Posted by Aljub.
        • Mendoza, E. (2012). Current research on specific language disorders. Speech therapy, phoniatry and audiology 32, 75-86.
        • Roca, E .; Carmona, J .; Boix, C .; Colomé, R .; Lópex, A .; Sanguinetti, A .; Caro, M .; Without Fitó, A (coord.). (2010). Learning in Childhood and Adolescence: Keys to Avoiding School Failure. Esplugues de Llobregat: Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.

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