Expressive language: what it is, stages of development and possible problems

Communication consists of receiving and sending messages. At the time of receiving them, it is necessary to understand them in order to be able to issue one in the form of a response, that is to say, to express oneself.

In this sense, we can speak of two types of language: the expressive, which is the one we use as transmitters to transmit information to other people, and the comprehensive, which refers to the ability to understand what others tell us and know how to analyze it. .

Below we will see what expressive language is and how it develops in infancy and what it means to have speech problems.

    What is expressive language?

    We talk about expressive language or the expressive aspect of language the ability of humans to transmit information to another person. That is, things orally, in writing, or through gestures and facial expressions. It can be understood as the “output” of language, as opposed to comprehensive language which involves “input” and interpretation.

    This ability is already evident in the little one from birth. Throughout a child’s development, oral expressive language begins when he begins to make sounds with his mouth. Although basic and seemingly meaningless, such babbling is the first sign of children using the phrase. It is his way, still unsophisticated and very interpretative, of communicating his needs, his desires and his feelings.

    Not talking yet does not mean not communicating, because communication begins at birth, including reflective crying, looking away when you no longer want breastmilk, or throwing something away when you don’t like it. not.

      The development of expressive language in childhood

      Expressive language does not appear suddenly. Throughout its development, the infant goes through several phases in which their capacity for expression becomes more sophisticated and ends up speaking in the same way as an adult does around the age of 3-4 years..

      1. First 9 months

      During the first 9 months babies experiment with sounds and other forms of communication to express curiosity and interest in their surroundingsin addition to trying to influence him.

      In this vital period of the child, the following behaviors can be observed:

      • The baby cries to indicate hunger, pain or bad mood.
      • Use smiles and other facial expressions to initiate social contact.

      • Rolls over and makes physical movements to connect with acquaintances.
      • Stutter and experiment with sounds (e.g. bilabial: p, b, m)
      • It combines babbling of different types.
      • Start pointing at objects and people around you.

      Useful interaction strategies of your caregivers:

      • Take turns in simple interactions: coo after the baby cooed with a similar sound.
      • Repeat the sounds the baby makes, encourage him to “talk” more.
      • Create a rich linguistic environment: Communicate with the child during the day about what is going on.

      2. From 7 to 18 months

      Babies’ language progresses from babbling to vocal expressions and first words. Toddlers reduce their babbling as they begin to increase their vocabulary exponentially. Its first words tend to be two-syllable expressions, often diminutives of everyday objects, such as “bibi” for “baby bottle”.

      During this period, you may see the following behaviors in the cub:

      • He stutters using the sounds of his mother tongue.
      • Create long sentences while stammering.
      • Non-verbal communication to express ideas: for example, saying goodbye with the hand.
      • He pronounces his first words, most often in childish jargon: mama, papa, tata, bibe…
      • Name some familiar objects in your environment.
      • Use a single word to convey a message: for example, say “water” to say that you want to drink.

      Some useful interaction strategies for caregivers at this stage are:

      • Acknowledge and respond to the little one’s attempts to communicate.
      • Expand on what the child says: Water? Do you want to drink more water?
      • Show your appreciation when the little one tries to use new words.
      • Speak and read in front of the child.
      • Describe what happens throughout the day: “Let’s sit down and eat.”

      3. From 16 months to 24 months

      At the age of two, children are still experimenting with language and expanding their vocabulary. Also It is at this age that boys and girls begin to say two-word phrases to communicate “Dad is gone” or “I have juice”.

      Among the behaviors that we can observe in this period we have:

      • Use more words than gestures when speaking.
      • Repeat the words you hear.
      • Telegraphic speech: “baby sleep”, “bad daddy”, “broken juete”.

      Here are some interaction strategies for caregivers:

      • Keep talking to the little one about day-to-day issues.
      • Encourage the child to talk and expand on what he or she is saying.
      • Acknowledge and expand on what the child says: “Yes, I see dad is gone.”

      3. From 21 months to 36 months

      The little ones are already able to communicate on current topics and begin to combine certain words into short sentences to express more clearly what your needs and desires are, especially as the 3-year-old approaches. During this period he began to use verb moods and tenses, although still in simple sentences. There is still a marked increase in vocabulary, combined with the use of articles, pronouns and adverbs.

      Some behaviors we can observe at this stage are:

      • He says three-word sentences: “I want to eat an apple.”
      • Use of pronouns and prepositions: “He took the ball from me”, “in the chair”.
      • Makes irregular conjugation verbs (“done”, “said”, “has”). This indicates that he understands complex grammar rules.
      • Use more and more adjectives: “pink doll”.

      Some interaction recommendations for adult caregivers:

      • Give a correct speech pattern, but without correcting the child when speaking.

      • Use simple sentences when talking to the little one.

      • Let children play and experiment with language by singing or rhyming.

      • Related article: “Developmental psychology: main theories and authors”

      Expressive language problems

      Although this is not always the case, children who have difficulty with expressive language often have comprehension problems as well. Many symptoms associated with speech and comprehension disorders are similar, such as attention deficits.. In the particular case of expression problems, we have symptoms such as the use of very childish jargon for their age (for example, “bibi”, “aga”), the use of sentences with few words and simple verbs, sentences with an incorrect word order, in addition to severe difficulty in mastering literacy and written expression.

      Expressive language problems limit people’s ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas. If there is no problem with receptive language or comprehension but of an expressive type, the patient understands what is being said, but has difficulty verbalizing, writing and physically expressing his thoughts and ideas.

      Among other problems, children with an expressive language disorder may have the following problems.

      • Difficulty putting words together when speaking.
      • Difficulty finding the right words when speaking.
      • Have a lower vocabulary than your peers.
      • Use times incorrectly.

      In these little ones, we can also observe behaviors such as than the following:

      • Answer direct questions with one- or two-word answers.
      • They rarely offer an idea or provide a detailed description of their experiences.
      • Your choice of vocabulary is limited and unsophisticated.
      • His written expression is tedious and results in a very poorly developed text.
      • Your body language does not match how you feel in a given situation.

      Boys and girls with speech problems can be helped if various strategies are applied. In the classroom context, it can be helpful to promote the active participation of these students in class discussions and paper-and-pencil activities.. Additionally, visual aids can be included to increase vocabulary use, such as drawing a picture or gesture and below the written word. Visual graphic organizers are also a useful tool in the development of expressive language production.

      At home you can also use a variety of tools to help the little ones. Parents are advised to use who, what, when, why, where and how questions when talking to their child, and to avoid yes and no questions.. These questions can be used as sentence extensions to improve written expression.

      Each child is unique and may show different signs of language development problems. These symptoms and signs should be evaluated to determine whether or not an expressive language problem exists. It is best to go see a licensed professional who can really determine whether or not the child has these problems. Professionals who can address this learning problem include speech therapists such as speech therapists, child psychologists, and reinforcement teachers.

      Given the limitations of not being able to express yourself well, it is very important that if you suspect that your child or student may have this type of problem, help them, a diagnostic protocol is initiated and reinforced as far as possible and necessary. As always, early detection and intervention is the best prevention strategy. The sooner you act, the less serious your learning problems will be and the easier your situation will improve.

      Bibliographic references

      • Arango-Tobón, Olber Eduardo, Pinilla-Monsalve, Gabriel David, Loaiza-Gaviria, Tatiana, Puerta-Lopera, Isabel Cristina, Rosa, Antonio Olivera-La, Ardila, Alfredo, Matute, Esmeralda, & Rosselli, Mónica. (2018). Relationship between expressive and receptive language and pre-reading skills. Latin American Journal of Psychology, 50(3), 136-144.
      • Coloma, CJ, Pavez, MM and Maggiolo, M. (2002) Characterization, analysis and stimulation of narrative discourse in children with specific language impairment. Chilean Journal of Speech Therapy, 3, 75-90.
      • Copman, KSP and Griffith, PL (1994) Recall of event structure and stories by children with specific learning disabilities, language impairments and normally successful children. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 23, 231-248.
      • Evans, J., Alibali, M., McNeil, N. (2001) Divergence of verbal expression and embodied knowledge: evidence for speech and gesture in children with language impairments. Language and cognitive processes, 16; 309-331.
      • Freyre, KL (2021). Evaluation of expressive and receptive language in two-year-old children from a garden cradle – Tumán (license thesis).
      • Liles, B., Duffy, R., Merrit, D. & Purcell, S. (1995) Measurement of Narrative Discourse Ability in Children with Language Disorders. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, 868-882.

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