What is the difference between language delay and language disorder?

Language is naturally learned by children who are born ready to acquire it through their interaction with their families and environment. Language emerges through the interactions of cognitive, neurobiological and environmental systems within the child’s social context. However, many children struggle to develop language following the typical milestones for communication skills.

When a child has difficulties in the development of language skills, the first people to notice it are ususally his parents or caregivers especially after comparing him to children his age.

These difficulties in acquiring language skills may be due to a language delay where language develops more slowly than in typical development. After intervention, and sometimes even without any direct intervention, the child catches up on his delay. On the other hand, the language disorder is a developmental disorder.

This means that it appears in childhood and may persist through adulthood. The child shows difficulty in acquiring language skills (comprehension and expression). In this case, the early intervention is very important in order to support the parents/caregivers or any person interacting with the child on a daily basis and to give the child the tools to overcome his challenges. 

The language disorder may occur with other learning disorders that affect reading and writing abilities as well as with other developmental, emotional and/or behavioral disorders.

It is highly recommended that parents and caregivers consult with a speech and language therapist as soon as they notice the difficulties in their child’s speech and language to get the support needed in boosting their child’s communication skills.

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