專家教學

Signs of Language Delay

Author: Karen KEI
Speech and Language Therapist

Receptive language delay is when a person has difficulty understanding spoken words and language that you read or hear. This includes difficulty understanding concepts such as shapes, colours, prepositions (in front/behind), time (before/after), grammar (plurals, third person singular, past tense) etc. Some children have difficulty understanding oral language and may rely on key words or gestures.   

Expressive language delay is when a person has difficulty using words, sentences, gestures and writing to convey meaning and thoughts. This includes difficulty in naming objects, using the right word (e.g. tiger as a lion), describe an action or events, put words together into sentences (e.g. I bread), use grammar correctly (e.g. I goed to school), retell a story, and answer questions. 

Why is receptive language important?

Receptive language is important because it allows children to understand the world around them. This can be through understanding what a word means, learning routines, responding appropriately to questions in order to make a conversation and interact with others. 

Why is expressive language important?

Expressive language is important because it allows children to be able to express their needs and wants, thoughts and ideas in a functional and successful way.

Signs of receptive language delay
By 6 months old:
  • does not look at you or join in
  • does not watch your face when you are talking
By 12 months old:
  • does not recognise his/her name
  • does not begin to point and look at where at object when a caregiver name an object
By 18 months old:
  • does not follow simple instructions, such as ‘Give me the ball’. 
  • does not respond with a word or gesture to questions such as ‘What’s that?’, ‘Where’s your car?’
  • does not point to familiar objects or body parts when asked 
  • does not understand simple Yes/No questions
By 24 months old:
  • does not point to family members in photo when asked 
  • does not follow 2-step instructions 
  • does not understand simple ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Where’ questions
  • does not understand simple concepts, such as in/on, hot/cold
By 36 months old:
  • does not follow more complicated instructions
  • does not respond to questions 
  • does not take turn with others
  • does not understand simple story when supported with pictures
Signs of expressive language delay
By 6 months old:
  • does not make noise or cooing by themselves 
  • does not join in, smile and laugh with you
By 12 months old:
  • does not shout or make noise to get your attention 
  • does not babble with change of tone 
  • does not point to object 
  • does not use gestures such as waving ‘bye-bye’ or shaking head for ‘no’
  • does not communicate in some way when he/she needs help with something. E.g. pull you over to get something, pass you something to open
By 18 months old:
  • does not use at least 20 single words, such as ‘mummy’, ‘milk’, úp
  • does not say words or short phrases, such as ‘bye-bye’, ‘cup’. ‘daddy’  
  • does not respond to  simple Yes/No questions
By 24 months old:
  • say less than 100 words 
  • does not put 2 or 3 words together, such as ‘bye-bye mummy’, ‘teddy sleep’
  • does not use pronouns such as ‘me’, ‘I’.
  • does not understand simple ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Where’ questions by pointing, looking  or words
By 36 months old:
  • does not use words and sentences to ask questions or get what they want 
  • Is their speech clear to familiar adults
  • does not ask questions
  • does not speak in complete sentences

If you have noticed one or more of these signs in your child, it is important that you speak to your paediatrician or a speech and language therapist.

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Signs of Language Delay
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