Receptive and Expressive
Language Disability
Lindsey Padlo
Sarah Laurens
Definition of terms:
• Language: a socially shared code or conventional
system for representing concepts through the use
of arbitrary symbols and rule-governed
combinations of those symbols. (Shames, Wiig, &
Secord, 1994)
• Language disorder: impaired comprehension or
use of spoken, written, or other symbol systems.
The disorder may involve:
• The form of language (structure)
[phonology, morphology, syntax]
• The content of language (semantics)
[meaning, vocabulary]
• The function of language (pragmatics)
[social communication, discourse]
--American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1993
• People with learning disabilities who
can't use proper grammar are not
very bright.
How Common Are LanguageBased Learning Disabilities?
• 15-20% of the population have a
language-based learning disability.
• Of the students with specific learning
disabilities receiving special
education services, 70-80% have
deficits in reading.
What are some of the characteristics
of a student with a mixed ReceptiveExpressive Language Disability?
The student may have difficulty in some or all of the following areas:
• Expressing ideas clearly, as if the words needed are on the tip of the
tongue but won't come out.
• Learning new vocabulary that the child hears (e.g., taught in
lectures/lessons) and/or sees (e.g., in books)
• Understanding questions and following directions that are heard and/or
• Recalling numbers in sequence (e.g., telephone numbers and
• Understanding and retaining the details of a story's plot or a classroom
• Reading and comprehending material
Characteristics (continued)
• Learning words to songs and rhymes
• Telling left from right, making it hard to read and write since both
skills require this directionality
• Letters and numbers
• Learning the alphabet
• Identifying the sounds that correspond to letters, making learning to
read difficult
• Mixing up the order of letters in words while writing
• Mixing up the order of numbers that are a part of math calculations
• Spelling
• Memorizing the times tables
• Telling time
How is a language-based learning
disability diagnosed?
The Speech & Language Pathologist will evaluate spoken (speaking and
listening) and written (reading and writing) language for children who have
been identified by their teachers and parents as a candidate for having a
language-based learning disability.
•Observe whether the child can read and understand information on
handouts and in textbooks.
•Assess the student's ability to hear and "play with" sounds in words
(phonological awareness skills).
•Have the child put together syllables and sounds to make a word.
•See if the child can break up a word into its syllables and/or sounds (e.g.,
"cat" has one syllable but three sounds c-a-t).
Assess the older child's phonological memory by having him or her repeat
strings of words, numbers, letters, and sounds of increasing length.
What treatments are available for
people with a language-based learning
disability ?
• The goals of speech and language treatment for the child with a
reading problem target the specific aspects of reading and writing that
the student is missing.
• Individualized programs always relate to the school work. Therefore,
materials for treatment are taken from or are directly related to content
from classes
• Intervention with spoken language (speaking and listening) can also be
designed to support the development of written language.
• The SLP consults and collaborates with teachers to develop the use of
strategies and techniques in the classroom.
Importance of Intervention:
• Children with oral language disabilities require
direct intervention since the consequences have a
major impact on their academic experience.
• If a child has difficulty comprehending and
utilizing the underlying structure of language, it
affects their ability to accurately process or share
information, whether listening, reading, or
participating in discussion.
What teachers can do in the
• Speak slowly and clearly at all times!
Some instructional strategies for students’
processing/production errors:
Instructor’s request: Use lunge in a sentence.
Student’s response: The students lunged around all day.
• Provide some validation (that’s very close.
I may not have said it
• Examine further: put the word into context and repeat the
• Introduce phonemic training: Put lunge & lounge on the
board. Ask Where do these two words differ? ‘u’ (short u) vs.
‘ou’ Present other similar sounding/appearing words : lunch / luge.
Clarify the miscue: What’s that room where the kids hang out ?
Use gestural cues (act out the words)
Use semantic cues (from context – sentences)
Present word families and word associations for meanings
of each word.
• Ask for synonyms and antonyms of each (where applicable)
Receptive (processing)
Morphological Errors :
Plural markers
Past-tense markers
Possessive markers
Prepositions denoting time : Is January before or
after April? Student replies after
• Comparatives giving greater value to first noun in
the sentence: Are rooms smaller or larger than
buildings? (Student replies larger)
Expressive Morphological Errors :
Student said:
Meant to say:
point him to the office
I broken
I broke
Doesn’t supposed to be
I brang
I brought
Type of error:
dropped prefix
added incorrect derivational
attempted to work with
negative prefix
confused present perfect/past
confused linking verbs
overgeneralized rule for plurals
overgeneralized an irregular
verb form
Skills are divided into 5 linguistic areas:
phonology (speech sounds),
morphology (meaningful word parts),
syntax (sentence structure),
semantics (meaning, vocabulary), and
pragmatics (social communication, discourse).
--Elisabeth Wiig and Eleanor Semel (1984) Language Assessment & Intervention
for the Learning Disabled, 2nd Edition. Pragmatics goals from Barbara
Weinrich, et al. Pragmatics for Adolescents in the Classroom and Charlann
Simon’s Evaluating Communicative Competence (1994).
Curricular Modifications:
• Modifying the curriculum to meet the needs of all learners
is very important. Modifications will vary based on the
students and the grade level. Curricular modifications that
have been successful for a kindergarten student with
receptive-expressive language disability and have been
helpful to all the students include the following:
• Repeating oral directions and having the student follow
what the other students are doing.
• When introducing a new word, we point it out in the text
and have the student point to it and read it (focusing on
only one new word at a time).
• We noticed that the student was particularly good at
memorizing what he saw visually, so while teaching the
alphabet, we had him memorize the letters.
Curricular Modifications (cont.)
• We have our student point to the words as he is reading.
• To assist him in phonological awareness, we play a sound
game where he places a coin in a slot for every
syllable/sound that he hears in the word, and we limit it to
words with 2-3 syllables.
• While learning the color words, we sent home flashcards
for the student to practice memorizing the words. We also
went over the words with him during reading groups. His
strength is memorization, so he knows the words by
memorizing them.
• Repeating what the student says in a complete sentence,
and having him repeat after us.
Instructional Materials :
Language Circle Enterprises: Project Read/Language Circle 800-450-0343
McCarthy, T. 1997. Teaching literary elements. NY : Scholastic Professional Books.
Bush, C. 1979. Language remediation and expansiion – 100 skill-building reference lists. Tucson, AZ :
Communication Skill Builders.
Gajewski, Nancy, et al. 1989. Social skills strategies, books A & B. Tucson, AZ : Thinking Publications.
Johnston, Elizabeth, et al. 1984. A sourcebook of pragmatic activities. Tucson, AZ : Communication
Skill Builders.
Kisner, Rita, et al. Warm-Up Exercises – Calisthenics for the brain, Books 1,2, 3. Eau Claire, WI :
Thinking Publications.
Mayo, Patty, et al. Scripting : social communication for adolescents. 1986. Eau Claire, WI : Thinking
Zachman, L. et al. 1982. Manual of exercises for expressive reasoning. Moline, IL : Lingui Systems.
Wiig, E. and Semel, E. 1984. Language assessment & intervention for the learning disabled (2 nd ed.).
Columbus, OH : Merrill.
Wiig, E. and Secord, W. 1989. Test of Language Competence—Expanded. San Antonio : The
Psychological Corporation.
Cullinan, Bernice. 1993. Children’s voices : talk in the classroom. Newark, DE : Intl. Reading
Semel, E., Wiig, E., and Secord, W. 1995. Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals
Palmer, Michelle O’Brian. 1997. Great Graphic Organizers to Use with Any Book ! NY : Scholastic,
Additional Internet Resources for
Language-based Learning Disabilities:
Learning Disabilities Association
British Dyslexia Association
Dyslexia Research Institute
Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center
International Dyslexia Organization

Receptive and Expressive Language Disability