Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Category — 1.3 Communication: Receptive Language

Receptive Language

Communication Development: Receptive Language1

Receptive language refers to a child’s ability to understand language. It usually develops earlier than expressive language. That is, children, and some adults, usually understand more language than they can produce. Receptive language can be divided into non-verbal, verbal and written language.

Non-verbal receptive language includes:

  • understanding others’ facial expressions, body language and hand signs

Verbal receptive language includes:

  • understanding what someone is saying
  • understanding qualitative concepts (e.g. big/small, short/tall…)
  • understanding quantitative concepts (e.g. a lot, a little, all, none…)
  • understanding and following simple directions (e.g. give me the book)
  • listening to stories
  • understanding and following complex directions (e.g. go to your room, pick up the book from the floor and bring it back to me)
  • understanding someone’s questions

Written receptive language includes:

  • recognizing letters (lower case)
  • recognizing letters (upper case)
  • recognizing numbers
  • reading and understanding simple sentences
  • reading and understanding complex sentences
  • reading and understanding paragraphs
  • tracing, copying and writing letters
  • tracing, copying and writing numbers
  • copying simple (e.g.,”mom“) and complex words (e.g., “truck“), from an example
  • writing letters together, in sequence to form words (from memory), e.g., m-o-m-m-my
  • writing words next to each other to form sentences, e.g. I-love-my-puppy
  • putting sentences together to form paragraphs, e.g., I love my puppy. One day I will take my puppy to school. I will show my puppy to my friends and to my teacher


Receptive language skills are extremely important for the development of expressive and pragmatic language skills. They are also crucial for the development of cognitive and social/emotional skills. In fact, receptive language, expressive language, pragmatic language, cognition and social/emotional skills are all related. Any delay or difficulties in one of these areas is likely to result in delays or difficulties in the other areas.

1. see References

December 7, 2010   No Comments