How to Recognize and Manage Expressive Language Disorder in Adults

expressive language disorder in adults

Expressive language disorder is a condition that affects the ability to express oneself clearly. It can make it difficult to communicate with others, both verbally and non-verbally. Many adults with this disorder go undiagnosed, as they often learn to compensate for their difficulties. However, there are ways to recognize and manage expressive language disorder in adults. In this blog post, we will discuss what expressive language disorder is, identify it, and manage it effectively.

  • Language Disorders: An Overview
  • What is Expressive Language Disorder?
  • Causes of Expressive Language Disorder
  • Symptoms of Expressive Language Disorder?
  • How to diagnose Expressive Language Disorder
  • Treatment for Expressive Language Disorder



Language Disorders: An Overview

Language processing disorders are brain-based conditions that make it difficult for someone to express himself or make sense of what is being said. A person with a language disorder cannot understand others’ spoken or written language (receptive language disorders) or communicate ideas, feelings, and thoughts in writing (expressive language disorders). Some struggle when using and understanding language (mixed receptive-expressive language).

Spoken and written language disorders can affect both forms (phonology, morphology, syntax) and meaning (semantics), function, or use of language in functional and socially acceptable ways.

What is Expressive Language Disorder?

expressive language disorder practiceA lifelong condition that affects the capability to communicate, the expressive language disorder is characterized by a lack of understanding of what others are talking about. People who suffer from this linguistic issue comprehend what others are saying. When they talk, though, it’s difficult for them to convey their thoughts. It’s not a speech problem, though it affects how you express yourself. It has nothing to do with how people say words. It’s also not a sign of poor intellect.

Expressive language disorder is a problem with communication. It makes it hard for people to share their thoughts or ideas or show that they understand what others are saying. This happens in all settings — at school, at work, and anywhere else people interact.

People with expressive language disorder often struggle to form sentences that make sense. They may need extra time to answer questions or take a turn in a conversation. These challenges can make it hard to connect with people, make friends, and form relationships.

Causes of Expressive Language Disorder

Language disorders are often developmental. They start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. But they can also be caused by a brain injury or illness. For many children, the cause of expressive language disorder is not known.

  • Trauma. A head injury may affect one’s ability to express feelings and thoughts.
  • Relevant medical condition. Down syndrome, autism, meningitis, or hearing loss can be associated with a patient’s capacity to show or speak his thoughts and emotions. Stroke can cause aphasia or the inability to use words.
  • Developmental impairment. Some patients have this language disorder present at birth, although a late diagnosis is expected.
  • Acquired impairment. Many who have expressive language disorder manifested their symptoms during their development.

Many with expressive language disorder will have an accompanying ‘receptive language disorder, meaning that they have difficulty understanding language.

Language disorders aren’t a matter of intelligence. People who have them are as smart as other people. But having a language disorder can make it challenging to learn and connect with other people.

Symptoms of Expressive Language Disorder

Individuals with expressive language disorder are usually below the average level in their ability to:

  • Put words and sentences together to express thoughts.
  • Recall and remember the names of words.
  • Use language appropriately in various settings with different people (for example, at home, in school, at work, with parents, peers, and colleagues).

Here are some examples of instances where this language impairment is most evident.

  • Failing to make grammatically correct sentences (‘I goed with him’ instead of ‘I went with him,’ or ‘I going‘ instead of I’m going).
  • Using vague words, like thing or stuff
  • Having a lower-than-average or limited vocabulary
  • Having trouble finding words (more uhmm in a sentence)
  • Using simpler sentences or short phrases, cannot elaborate clearly about a topic.
  • Using nonspecific vocabulary such as like or there
  • Using words incorrectly, sentences do not make sense, or statements become confusing.
  • Using standard phrases to limit speech
  • Repeating one’s statements or words (echoing)
  • Leaving out words, they cannot talk straight to the point.
  • Using made-up words frequently when they can’t produce the correct word
  • Being late to begin talking; unable to start or hold a conversation, and not observing general rules of communicating with others
  • Having problems with retelling a story or relaying information in an organized or cohesive way
  • Speaking quietly; sounding hesitant when attempting to converse.

Issues at work

Difficulties with language can impact your career by making it difficult to finish tasks or get along with coworkers. The difference between an expressive and receptive language disorder is evident, but their signs look similar.

Adults with expressive language disorder understand a situation but cannot communicate their thoughts properly. On the other hand, those with receptive language disorders lack language comprehension, so they do not understand what others are saying.

Because of this, symptoms in the workplace could include:active speaking difficulty

  • Anxiety about having to speak in front of people or give a presentation
  • Trouble answering a direct question from your supervisor, even if you know the answer.
  • Struggles to keep up with small office talk
  • Unable to master the “vocabulary” of your workplace, often saying the wrong word in work-related situations

To sum it up, adults with receptive language disorder do not understand the conversation. On the other hand, those with expressive language disorder can understand the topic but cannot talk back and communicate.

How to diagnose Expressive Language Disorder

To be diagnosed with expressive language disorder, people have to be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. These specialists work in schools, clinics, and private practice. They primarily assess one’s communication disorder and think of a treatment plan to address it.

People can be diagnosed at any age. But since expressive language disorder is developmental, the signs can appear at a very young age. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the sooner children or young adults can get help to improve their language skills. Have your children’s language skills be assessed by a speech pathologist. Have them take the hearing test to rule out any auditory issues.

Speech pathologists perform specific assessments to identify the areas of language that a child finds difficult. These assessments are not stressful for the child, and parents are usually present during these consultations.

Speech pathologists may also recommend:

  • an auditory processing test (this is different from a standard hearing test)
  • a test for learning difficulties (for school-aged children)
  • an assessment of cognitive function (thinking and intelligence) by a registered psychologist.

Treatment for Expressive Language Disorder

Adults with language disorders — either developmental or the result of a brain injury — can benefit from speech therapy. Studies show that, while adult speech therapy is not always as successful as pediatric therapy, skilled therapists often make great strides or provide alternative options for overcoming language deficiencies.

Treatment options depend on the severity of the impairment. These may include:

  • group or individual therapy sessions with a speech pathologistlanguage disorders
  • school-based language intervention programs
  • assistance from special education teachers
  • teacher’s aide support for children with severe language impairment
  • speech pathology sessions combined with home programs that parents or adults can use.

Whether there is a medical cause or not, clinical evidence has proven that treatment provided by speech-language pathologists is beneficial, particularly in children. The goal is to stimulate overall language development and teach language skills to enhance everyday communication in an integrated contextual fashion. The good news is that studies have shown that speech therapy improves communication skills and leads to academic and social success and enhanced quality of life.


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