Expressive Language Disorder

What is expressive language disorder?

Expressive language disorder is a communication disorder. If you have this disorder, you have a very hard time putting your thoughts and feelings into words. You read and understand without a problem, but have a hard time expressing yourself. Usually people with this disorder are quite intelligent.

What is the cause?

This disorder is related to problems with how the brain works. Expressive language disorder is more common in males than females.

The disorder may start after a head injury, a stroke, a brain infection such as meningitis, or other condition that affects the brain. It can happen at any age.

You may have been born with the disorder. It is more likely if other people in your family have had this disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Having a hard time finding the words to express yourself
  • Being unable to repeat words or sentences
  • Having trouble naming objects
  • Being able to form only certain types of sentences, such as questions
  • Having a hard time learning and remembering words
  • Making errors in tense, such as saying “I walked to the store tomorrow”
  • Leaving out important parts of sentences

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may be referred to a psychologist for other special tests.

How is it treated?

The most common treatment for this disorder combines language and speech therapy. Speech therapy includes training, exercises, and the use of devices that can make it easier to communicate. The therapist may work with you one-on-one or in a small group. The therapist may:

  • Model the correct way to say words and have you repeat words and sentences
  • Speak the correct sound or syllable of a word for you to repeat. You then practice how to make the sound with your mouth and tongue. You may use a mirror to watch how your mouth and tongue move.
  • Teach you breathing techniques and relaxation exercises to help you relax your face and mouth muscles

The success of your treatment depends on:

  • How badly your brain is injured
  • What part of the brain is affected
  • Your age
  • The level of your language skills before the illness or injury

How can I take care of myself?

Here are some things that might help you find the words you need:

  • Pause for a minute to give yourself a chance to think.
  • Say the first letter of the word.
  • If you can’t think of certain words, such as “turn right”, you might use a gesture such as pointing, or use other words, such as “that way”.
  • Trying singing what you want to say. A different part of the brain is used when you sing than when you speak, and it may help you to get the words out more easily.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-12-03
Last reviewed: 2014-11-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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