Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Expressive Language

The Typical Language section of this course describes expressive language1 as a tool we use to get a message across to someone. It can be oral, like when we speak, or the use of signs or ‘non-verbal’ language (see full Glossary), like when we wave “bye-bye.”  Children develop their expressive language gradually and sequentially. Some children have a hard time learning how to use gestures, signs and words to communicate. These may be signs of expressive language delay. It is important to recognize them in order to address these delays as early as possible.

Some “linguistic” signs of delays in the area of expressive language include:

  • No babbling by  age 8 months;
  • No spoken words by 18 months;
  • Speaking in one-word phrases after age two years  (e.g.: “ball” for “play ball”);
  • Mostly using baby language after age four years;
  • Repeating what they hear over and over after age three years, or ‘echolalia’ (see full Glossary);
  • Talking to self most of the time after age three years;
  • Not taking turns when speaking, as if speaking in ‘circles’, after age three years;
  • Having difficulty stating their wants and needs after age four years;
  • Giving mostly one-word answers to open-ended questions (see full Glossary) like “what did you play at the party?” by age six years;
  • Using one word to name many things, or ‘over-generalizing’ (see full Glossary) (for example, calling most four wheeled vehicles a car).

Some “non-verbal” and “behavioral” signs of expressive language delay at 12 months may include:

  • Little or no eye contact;
  • No pointing to items or objects;
  • Little or no turn taking skills (see full Glossary);
  • Little or no joint attention (see full Glossary);
  • Little or no joint action (see full Glossary);
  • Throwing temper tantrums, or hitting (when not being able to get their point across to others);
  • Becoming easily frustrated when trying to communicate with others (e.g., crying, using a loud voice);
  • Not wanting to participate in activities with others;
  • Seldom starting a conversation with others.

As described in the Typical and Atypical Cognitive sections in this course, language and cognitive development are closely related. This is why it is so important to address expressive language delays in a child as early as possible.

1 see References

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