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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Jeret

Understanding Developmental Language Disorders: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents and Adults

Updated: Jul 11

Speech Therapy for language learning Disabilities in West Rogers Park, 60645, 60659, 60660 Illinois

Navigating the world of Developmental Language Disorders (DLD), also called Language Learning Disabilities (LLD), as a parent or individual can be challenging. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore DLD, red flags, and practical strategies to help both adults with DLD and parents assist their child through the challenges of DLD.

In this article, you will learn about:

What is a Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

Before we delve into the definition of Developmental Language Disorders, or DLD, it's essential to first understand learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities encompass challenges in acquiring and using skills such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, mathematics, or social skills. Importantly, these challenges are not attributed to environmental factors, handicapping conditions, socio-economic influences, or attention deficit disorder, although they may coexist with these conditions.

In simpler terms, learning disabilities refer to difficulties in learning that are unexpected given the child’s other learning abilities and developmental level.

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) or Language-Based Learning Disability (LBLD) or Language-Learning Disability (LLD) constitute a specific type of learning disability that results in challenges expressing ideas, comprehending concepts, and using language for reasoning and problem-solving. These difficulties can also extend to impact social and emotional functioning beyond academic settings.

A Reading Disability, a subtype of language-based learning disability, specifically affects reading comprehension.

Dyslexia, another category within reading disabilities, influences accurate and/or fluent word recognition, spelling, and decoding. Due to these challenges, reading comprehension is often diminished, leading to a reduced overall reading experience.

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What are the Different Types of Language Learning Disabilities

There are three different types of language learning disabilities.

Receptive Language Disability is a condition that impacts an individual's ability to comprehend and process language. Individuals with this disorder may have:

  • Delayed language development.

  • Challenges following directions or understanding what has been said to them.

  • Difficulty understanding the meaning of words and a limited vocabulary.

  • Difficulty keeping up with verbally-presented material.

Expressive Language Disability impacts an individual's ability to communicate effectively. Individuals with this disorder may have:

  • Challenges constructing sentences.

  • Challenges finding the right word, often using general words to describe more specific objects.

  • Using grammatical tenses incorrectly.

  • A limited vocabulary.

  • Omitting essential words from sentences.

Mixed Language Disability exhibits deficits in both receptive and expressive language skills.

Indicators of a Language Learning Disability

Challenges with the phonological aspects (pertaining to speech sounds) of language including:

  1. Struggles with recognizing and manipulating sounds in spoken language.

  2. Struggles with rhyming.

  3. Struggles with the identification of syllables.

  4. Difficulty reading or lack of interest in reading.

  5. Challenges in writing or lack of interest in writing.

  6. Poor spelling.

Challenges with Syntactic (related to sentence structure) Aspects of Language:

  1. Challenges producing and understanding complex sentence structures.

Challenges with Semantic (meaning) Aspects of Language:

  1. Difficulty understanding spoken and written language.

  2. Struggles to follow single- and/or multi-step directions.

  3. Struggles to respond appropriately to questions.

  4. Limited retelling abilities.

  5. Limited vocabulary.

  6. Uses non-specific language to describe specific words (e.g., uses the words “that thing” or “whatchamacallit”).

  7. Misinterprets instructions or information.

  8. Limited use of figurative language including idioms and metaphors

Challenges with Pragmatic (social) Aspects of Language:

  1. Difficulty with turn-taking and maintaining appropriate eye contact during a conversation.

  2. Difficulty engaging in age-appropriate conversation.

Other Challenges:

  1. Frustration and behavioral issues.

  2. Attempts to camouflage or conceal their disability-children with DLD may conceal their disability by imitating peers or siblings, avoiding tasks, and nodding to feign comprehension to deter others from knowing they have difficulties with language.

  3. Shows a significant gap between verbal and non-verbal abilities.

  4. Inconsistencies in academic performance, with strong abilities in some areas, but notable weaknesses in language-related tasks.

What are the Causes of a Language Learning Disability?

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Language Learning Disabilities (LLD) is a condition that emerges early in development and affects the growth and development of the nervous system. This disorder is caused by interactions between genes and the environment that alter brain development. While the exact causes of the brain differences leading to LLD's are unknown, there are several factors we are certain of:

  1. Family history: Research indicates that 50-70% of children with LLD's have at least one family member affected by the disorder.

  2. Gender: LLD is more common in males than in females.

  3. Associated conditions: LLD can be comorbid with other disabilities or health issues, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Down Syndrome.

We know that LLD is not caused by:

  • Limited language exposure: Contrary to common misconceptions, LLD does not stem from inadequate exposure to rich language experiences during early childhood.

  • Socioeconomic factors: Socioeconomic status and limited access to educational resources do not cause LLD.

  • Hearing impairments: While hearing impairments can impact language development, they are not the root cause of LLD.

  • Bilingualism: Speaking another language does not cause LLD; however, if one has a LLD, it will occur in both languages.

Do Language Learning Disabilities Go Away?

A language disability will often continue throughout adulthood, but improvements in language skills are possible with treatment from a speech-language pathologist, especially when early intervention is provided. It is very common for a child or adult to feel nervous or sad about receiving a language disorder diagnosis; however, treatment with a professional speech-language pathologist can assist individuals in making improvements or developing compensatory strategies for underlying language challenges. Early identification and intervention will help alleviate long-term impacts on those with LLDs.

When to Seek Help From a Speech-Language Pathologist

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If you, as an adult, struggle with any of the above or find that language is holding you back socially or in your career, it may be time to consult with a speech-language pathologist.

If you, as a parent, notice any indicators that your child may have a language learning disability, it may be time to consult a speech-language pathologist. The quicker intervention is provided, the quicker those with LLDs can improve their language skills.

It's important to understand that from preschool through second grade, children are learning to read. However, this paradigm shifts once a child reaches third grade. At that time, they are reading to learn. If a child presents with an undiagnosed or untreated language learning disability past second grade, they will also miss out on the academic aspect of what they are supposed to be able to read and learn.

How will a Speech-Language Pathologist Evaluate Me or my Child's Language?

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In order to assess a child or adult's language, a speech-language pathologist may employ any or all of the following:

  • Case history: An SLP will ask detailed questions about the individual's medical, developmental, cognitive, and family history. This information can be helpful in identifying specific risk factors an individual may have for a language disorder.

  • Oral peripheral exam: SLPs will assess the individual's oral-motor skills, such as the strength and range of motion of the muscles in the tongue, lips, and jaw. This is done to rule out any anatomical abnormalities and other possibilities that may mimic a language disorder. For example, children with tongue ties may present with sleep-disordered breathing. Children with sleep-disordered breathing don’t sleep as well and may therefore exhibit symptoms of a language disorder, even if they don't have one.

  • Articulation assessment: An SLP may evaluate the speech sounds of the individual.

  • Receptive language assessment: SLPs will assess the receptive language of the individual. In other words, the SLP will evaluate how much the individual understands.

  • Expressive language assessment: SLPs will assess the expressive language of the individual. In other words, the SLP will evaluate how much and how efficiently the individual uses language.

Treatment Options for Language Disabilities

Language intervention aims to improve the individual's language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and comprehension. This may involve activities such as:

  • Modeling correct language use

  • Providing structured language exercises

  • Incorporating games or activities that focus on language skills

  • Using visual aids, props, or technology to support learning

  • Engaging in conversation or dialogue practice

How Can Parents Support Their Child's Language Development at Home? 

  1. Engage in language-rich activities: Encourage language development through everyday activities such as shared reading activities, playing language games (some examples I like to play with children include: Word on the Street Junior, Apples to Apples Junior, Headbanz, and Guess Who), and providing opportunities for creative expression through imaginative play. Pretend play allows children to use language creatively and develop narrative skills. You can join in and expand on their ideas.

  2. Narrate Activities: Depending on the age of your child, describe what you are doing as you go about daily routines and activities. For example, narrate meal preparation or grocery shopping. This can assist your child learning new words and understanding the sequence of events

  3. Play and Pretend: Depending on the age of your child, encourage imaginative play with toys, dolls, or puppets. Pretend play allows children to use language creatively and develop narrative skills. Join in the play and expand on your child's ideas.

  4. Limit Screen Time: Limit the use of screens, such as TV's, tablets, and smartphones and encourage activities that promote language (such as playing board games, engaging in outdoor activities)

  5. Expand Vocabulary: Introduce new words during everyday activities to increase vocabulary

Tips for Parents Who Suspect Their Child has a Language Disabilities

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If parents suspect their child has a language disorder, here are some tips to help them navigate the situation effectively:

  1. Observe and document: Pay attention to your child’s communication and keep a record of specific language challenges you observe. This includes communication difficulties in different contexts (for example, at home, in social settings, at school).

  2. Educate yourself: Learn about typical language development milestones and the signs of language disorders in children. Understanding what to look for can help you recognize potential red flags in your own child.

  3. Communicate with teachers: If your child is currently in school, communicate your concerns with their teachers. They can provide you with insights into your child’s language skills in the classroom setting and may be able to provide you with additional recommendations or support.

  4. Schedule a consultation with a qualified speech-language pathologist to address your concerns.

  5. Trust your instincts: As a parent, you know your child best. Trust your instincts and advocate for the support you believe will benefit your child's language development.

Tips for Adults Who Suspect They Have a Language Disability

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If adults suspect they have a language disorder, here are some tips to help them navigate the situation:

  1. Observe and document: Pay attention to different times you encounter challenges with language in various contexts (for example, at work, in school, in social situations, while reading a report). This can be beneficial if/when an evaluation is conducted.

  2. Educate yourself about language disorders and their symptoms: Are these the same or similar symptoms you are experiencing?

  3. Communicate with others: If you’re comfortable, discuss your concerns with trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. Perhaps they can offer insights or observations that could further inform your understanding of your language strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Schedule a consultation with a qualified speech-language pathologist to address your concerns. They can conduct assessments to determine the presence of a language difficulty.

  5. Advocate for accommodations: If you do have a language disorder and you suspect it impacts your work or school, consider advocating for accommodations for yourself.

How Speak with Stephanie Can Help with Language Disability Treatment 

Our comprehensive range of offerings includes consultations, screenings, evaluations, and individualized speech therapy tailored specifically for children and adults presenting with articulation and phonological disorders. At Speak with Stephanie, we adopt a holistic approach with each client, fostering collaborative efforts to formulate goals that address their unique needs.

Families or individuals seeking treatment for language disorders benefit significantly from engaging with Speak with Stephanie. Our therapy is designed for utmost convenience, and we are affiliated with Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and Cigna plans.

Specifically, Speak with Stephanie excels in the following areas related to language disorder treatment:

  • Individualized Treatment Plans: Our commitment to personalized care means that we approach each client holistically, rejecting the notion of a one-size-fits-all treatment model.

  • Evidence-Based Treatment Approaches: Our methodology is rooted in evidence-based treatment approaches, ensuring that our interventions are supported by research.

  • Regular Feedback: We prioritize open communication by providing regular, insightful feedback to families, fostering a collaborative and transparent therapeutic process.

  • Collaboration with Families and Teachers: We actively collaborate with everyone involved in the child's well-being, including families, teachers, and related service providers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Questions about Articulation and Phonological Disorders in Illinois, speech therapy near me

What are the causes for a language disability?

We do not know the exact cause of of a LLD; however, we do know that genetics and gender can play a role. In addition, LLD can be comorbid with other disabilities like Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Down Syndrome.

What are the available treatment options for language disorders? 

Speech language therapy is an important treatment option for language disorders. Certified speech-language pathologists can assess an individual's language skills and develop a customized therapy plan to address areas of difficulty.

How can parents support their child's language development at home? 

In order to support children's language, parents can engage in language-rich activities such as shared reading activities, playing language games, and providing opportunities for creative expression through imaginative play. This may include limiting screen time in order to encourage more language opportunities.

Can language disorders be cured? 

With appropriate treatment, children and adults can learn to manage their language challenges effectively. It is important to recognize that this condition often persists. A language disorder is different from a language delay and language delays can be overcome.

Speech Therapy for Language Disorders in Skokie, Illinois

Speak with Stephanie offers in-person speech therapy for language-learning disabilities to both children and adults near Skokie, Evanston, Wilmette, and nearby neighborhoods.

At Speak with Stephanie, we focus on understanding your unique communication challenges. By pinpointing breakdowns, we tailor goals to your needs. Together, we'll explore causes and their impact, empowering you with strategies to enhance skills and monitor speech confidently.

Online Speech Therapy for Language Learning Disorders Throughout Illinois, New York, and New Jersey

In addition to providing in-person speech therapy, we offer online speech therapy for children and adults to those who have language-learning disabilities throughout Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.

Additional Speech Therapy Services Offered at Speak with Stephanie throughout Illinois, New York, & New Jersey

At Speak with Stephanie, we provide a comprehensive array of speech therapy services for both children and adults. Specializing in children's language disorders, speech production challenges, and stuttering, and offering adults expert support for communication issues like language disorders, articulation disorders, stuttering, and aphasia, we are committed to delivering personalized care tailored to each person's unique needs. Our holistic approach ensures significant improvements in communication skills, empowering clients to thrive in daily interactions and achieve their full potential.


About the author:  

Stephanie Jeret is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the owner of Speak with Stephanie LLC. She obtained her Bachelor's and Master's degree from the City University of New York. She has practiced speech therapy in a number of settings including outpatient rehabilitation, telepractice, skilled nursing facilities, schools, and a private practice. She specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of communication disorders including articulation disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, and fluency disorders. Information is available by emailing her at or by visiting



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