Middle Childhood Intervention 6-12:

Language Development

Kindergarten children have great language skills. They truly enjoy language and are, in many ways, using it the way adults use it. Language is a very obvious skill. This makes noticing language delays somewhat easier than noticing cognitive or academic delays.


There are some signs of receptive language delay. A child may:

  • have difficulty following directions, even simple ones (for example, please give me the book);
  • have difficulty understanding what others are saying, even if they are using simple language;
  • seem defiant (see full Glossary) (which could be a sign that the child does not understand what we are asking him to do);
  • not know basic body parts (for example: head, hands, legs).


There are some signs of expressive language delay. A child:

  • struggle with getting his or her point across, even to those who know him;
  • speak in two word phrases (for example: mommy go, cookie want);
  • struggle with questions (that is: asking a question by raising her voice, instead of using a “wh” question (see full Glossary));
  • say “no” and shake his or her head no, instead of using complete negation (such as: I don’t want to go);
  • speak mostly in the present (that is: using no or very little past or future tense, such as “I will do it”);
  • not know basic colors;
  • not using possessives (for example: Johnny’s cat).


There are some signs of articulation difficulties. A child may:

  • speak in a way that is not understood by others, even people close to the child;
  • struggle with pronouncing basic sounds such as “b” and “d”;
  • use a lot of sound substitutions (for example: snell for smell);
  • leave out certain sounds from words (for example: cool for school);
  • add sounds to certain words (for example: p-h-lay for play).


There are some signs of pragmatic difficulties. A child may:

  • constantly interrupt others (the key word here is constantly);
  • speak in a rather monotonous way, with no tone difference;


  • Language and cognitive development are  closely related. A delay in one will almost automatically result in a delay in the other. It is extremely important that children receive a full developmental evaluation, if they are showing any difficulties with their language skills.
  • Language development greatly influences social/emotional development. Children who have good language skills are able to communicate well with others and sometimes have better social skills than those who are struggling with language. Language is therefore important in its own right, but also because it greatly influences most other developmental areas.
  • Sometimes a language delay indicates a cognitive delay. For example, some articulation difficulties could be due to poor muscle control in the oral/motor area.
 see References


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