A developmental language delay is when a child is learning and acquiring language at a rate that is slower than expected. Children may have difficulty with expressive language, receptive language, or both. Expressive language is what you say; this includes vocabulary, grammar, asking questions and combining words to create sentences. Receptive language is what you understand; this includes following directions, answering questions, and understanding gestures.

What causes Developmental Language Delay?

Developmental language delay can occur when there is a family history of speech or language concerns, when a child is born early, had low birth weight, or when a child has hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of a Developmental Language Delay?

Signs of language delay can vary depending on the child’s age. There are language milestones which we expect most children to reach by a certain age. For more information on developmental milestones, click here.

Early signs of expressive language delay include difficulties with:

  • Naming objects
  • Asking questions
  • Putting words together into phrases or sentences
  • Using correct pronouns (e.g., “he/she”, “they”)

Early signs of receptive language delay include difficulties with:

  • Answering questions
  • Following directions
  • Pointing to objects or pictures when instructed (E.g., “Find the kitty.”)

When is speech therapy recommended for Developmental Language Delay?

Speech therapy is recommended when a child appears to be developing language slower than their peers or are not meeting the developmental milestones as expected.

What does therapy for Developmental Language Delay involve?

Speech therapy for young children with language delays occurs in a play-based manner. This allows children to learn new vocabulary, use longer phrases, use age-appropriate grammar, and learn other language targets in a fun and language-rich environment. Speech-language pathologists will also provide the family with training and activities to help promote language at home.