Middle Childhood Intervention 6-12:

Category — 4.3 Ten to Twelve: Language Development

Language Development

The language that 10 to 12 year olds use is almost as complex as the adults’ language. Children this age are now playing with words and delight in the use of word-based problems. They are able to change the complexity of their language to fit the audience they are speaking to and the situation they are in. In fact, there is very little that children at this age cannot do, when it comes to language. They can understand figurative speech, and ironic remarks and comments. Any delay in any area of language at this age should be taken seriously. The child who is exhibiting such delays should be referred to a speech and language pathologist  or a psychologist, for a full evaluation.


There are warning signs when it comes to expressive language delays. A child may:

  • still be unable to speak in full and complex sentences;
  • struggle with the use of negation; for example, “I cannot go today;”
  • struggle with the use of “wh” questions (for example: what’s for dinner?);
  • be unable to use the passive form (For example: “The cat was chased by the dog.”);
  • be unable to use figurative language (For example: “It is raining cats and dogs.”); and may actually look at the sky to see if cats or dogs are coming down;
  • be unable to use “ironic” statements;
  • continue to struggle with irregular plurals (For example, mice and feet);
  • continue to struggle with the irregular past tense (For example: “He ate and then slept”);
  • talk repeatedly about the same topic, over and over again;
  • be unable to explain his or her ideas, in more than one way;
  • be unable to give complex directions (for example: to get to my house, take a left on Pine street, then a quick right at Oak street and then another quick left at Fir street);
  • forget what word he or she wanted to use, using a “generic” word instead (for example, forgetting the breed of dog the neighbors have, like a Labrador or Lab, and using the word “dog” instead);
  • struggle with the use of abstract terms (such as “justice” and “freedom”).


When a child experiences delays in receptive language, he or she may:

  • be unable to understand complex directions (for example, “Please take the book that is on the shelf and put it under the table.);
  • be unable to understand the main topic in a conversation;
  • be unable to understand figurative language (for example, “zip it” and may appear confuse and want to fix his or her zipper);
  • be unable to understand ironic statements;
  • miss the meaning behind a “joke”;
  • struggle with understanding of the passive form (for example, “The book was carried by the teacher.”).
  • get mixed up between male and female terms (he versus she, or him versus her);
  • seem to understand only the first part of a complex or long sentence;
  • struggle with the understanding of abstract terms (such as “freedom” and “justice”).


There are warning signs when it comes to delays in pragmatics. A child may:

  • be unable to carry on a ten-minute conversation with adults;
  • be unable to carry on a ten-minute conversation with peers;
  • be unable to wait for his or her turn in a conversation;
  • be unable to stay on topic and will instead go off on tangents (that is, the child starts talking about cars and then suddenly shifts to talking about the weather);
  • struggle with the understanding of para-verbal cues (saying hmmm) and with non-verbal cues (nodding in agreement);
  • be rather quiet when around others most of the time;
  • get too close to others when talking to them (unless appropriate to do so, in the child’s culture); for example, some parents have described this as “breathing constantly on someone” when child needs to communicate something or share something with adults or other children;
  • only talk about things that are of interest to him or her;
  • attempt to join a conversation even if he or she has been given clear signals that she is not welcome to do so.


In addition to difficulties listed for children between 5 and 10 years old There are warning signs when it comes to delays of articulation. A child may:

  • not be able to pronounce all sounds in their native language, including the difficult ones (for example: the “zh” sound in “pleasure”).
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May 6, 2012   No Comments