Language: Expressive, Receptive, SPD


Language skills are a vital part in interacting with those around us. Language skills can be divided into receptive language, expressive language, and pragmatic (social) language.

What is receptive and expressive language?

Receptive language is the ability to understand and comprehend language, whereas expressive language is the ability to communicate or convey information such as ideas, wants, and needs. Receptive language and expressive language allow individuals to both understand and interact with the surrounding world by communicating desires, needs, opinions, and emotions. 

What is a language delay?

Language delay, or language disorder, describes the condition in which a child’s receptive language, expressive language, or both, are developing outside the expected milestones for the child’s age. As each child develops at their own pace, it can be difficult for parents to know when a language delay is present. Below are receptive and expressive language milestones that follow the expected path of development:

  • By age two: 
    • Follows one step directions
    • Uses two word utterances
    • Responds to simple questions
  • By age three:
    • Uses four word utterances
    • Uses pronoun forms I, you, me, we, and they
    • Asks when and how questions
  • By age four:
    • Follows longer (such as three step) directions
    • Uses sentences with more than one action word
    • Names letters and numbers
  • By age five:
    • Tells short stories
    • Adjusts speech based on listener or situation (ex. speaking when outside vs. inside, speaking with an adult vs. another child)
  • By age six:
    • Uses adjectives
    • Keeps a conversation going

Additionally, children with a language delay or disorder may struggle with organizing and expressing thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Using specific vocabulary may be difficult for a child with a language disorder, and therefore the child may frequently use non-specific vocabulary such as “thing” or “stuff” rather than a more specific term. Language disorders can make it difficult for children to describe past, current, and future events.

What is social pragmatic communication disorder? How can pragmatic language skills be improved?

A social pragmatic communication disorder concerns the verbal and nonverbal aspects of language used in a variety of social settings. A person with a social pragmatic communication disorder may have difficulty understanding and using the social rules when communicating with others. This affects the person’s ability to:

  • Adapt how they are communicating to a variety of social contexts
  • Understand and use nonverbal cues including body language and facial expression
  • Interpret figurative language, jokes, or sarcasm
  • Make and maintain friendships
  • Understand and express emotions

Social pragmatic communication disorders can be isolated or co-occur with other conditions, such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other developmental delays. Speech therapy services are an effective treatment option for social pragmatic communication disorders.

Treatment for language disorders and social pragmatic communication disorders

If your child or family member is diagnosed with a language disorder or social pragmatic communication disorder, speech therapy treatment is recommended. Speech therapy is an effective way to help those with language disorders improve their language skills and increase their confidence when communicating in naturally occurring contexts. Additionally, speech therapy can assist each client’s parents, teachers, and caregivers in learning and utilizing helpful strategies to support the client as they improve their language skills.

Concerned about Language Development? Need Help with Pragmatic Social Skills?

Are you concerned about your family member’s language and social development? Space City Speech is here to help! Space City Speech offers speech therapy services for individuals of any age who struggle with language and social skills. 

For more information, click here to book a complimentary consultation, or call us at (540) 325-6375.