Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Receptive Language

The Typical Language section of this course describes receptive language1 as the ability to understand and process language. It usually develops earlier than expressive language. The development of expressive language depends on the development of receptive language.

As part of our communication with others, receptive language is a large part of our life. Therefore, a delay in the development of receptive language skills will very likely influence the development of expressive language, as well as other areas of development.

Signs indicators of receptive language delay that appear by 12 months may include:

  • Not imitating others’ sounds or behaviors;
  • Not responding to name being called;
  • Appearing not to listen.

Some indicators that appear by age three years:

  • Appearing non-compliant (e.g. not following directions);
  • Showing delays in learning how to speak, or in developing expressive language skills.

Some indicators that appear by age five years:

  • Asking others to repeat themselves;
  • Finding it difficult to answer questions.

Some indicators that appear by age seven years:

  • Finding it difficult to make sense, or ‘process’ information (see full Glossary);
  • Not wanting to join in activities with others;
  • Having difficulty understanding stories.

Some indicators that appear by age nine years:

  • Having difficulties reading sentences.
1 see References


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