CHILDHOOD LANGUAGE DISORDERS: CAUSE, IDENTIFICATION, AND TREATMENT

What is language?

Language is a complex and highly structured system of rules by which humans communicate words and needs, express their feelings, and record their ideas for future generations. Speaking, reading, writing, and visual communication (sign language) are all forms of language.
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How do children learn language?

Children learn language and speech by listening to their parents, other family members, and friends speak. From the earliest months of life, babies listen to the sounds around them and are especially responsive to people talking. As the infant develops, he or she practices making sounds and putting words together. Over time and in stages, children learn the rules of language. For 90% of children, learning language, mastering the ability to speak, and developing reading and writing skills comes naturally. Ten percent of children, however, exhibit delays in speaking or using language including reading and writing. These children have Childhood Language Disorders.
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What are Childhood Language Disorders?

The term "Childhood Language Disorders" is used to describe delayed or atypical language development in children. Language disorders may include problems with hearing, speaking, or understanding spoken or written language. When a child exhibits a delay in learning to speak or mastering the concepts of reading and writing, he or she may have a Childhood Language Disorder.
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What causes Childhood Language Disorders?

Childhood Language Disorders may be the result of congenital (present at birth) or acquired conditions. Congenital conditions include problems detected at birth such as hearing loss, cerebral palsy, or cleft lip and palate. Acquired conditions may include head injury or infections affecting the brain. In most cases, however, Childhood Language Disorders have no known cause.
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How are Childhood Language Disorders identified?

Children at-risk for Childhood Language Disorders such as children with hearing loss, cleft lip and palate, or frequent ear infections should be closely monitored for speech and language disorders. For most children, Childhood Language Disorders are identified when the child does not develop speech and language skills at the same rate as other children. When a language disorder is suspected, the child should be referred for a thorough speech and language evaluation to assess all areas of language skill development.
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How are Childhood Language Disorders treated?

Early identification and treatment of Childhood Language Disorders is the key to a successful outcome. Families can be enrolled in special language development programs as soon as their infant is identified at-risk for a language disorder. During the preschool years, the child may receive individual or group speech and language therapy from a certified speech-language pathologist. At school age, eligible children receive special services within the regular classroom setting. For children with problems reading and writing, school-based services and extracurricular instruction help them develop reading and writing skills.
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How successful is treatment for Childhood Language Disorders?

The majority of children with Childhood Language Disorders make significant progress with early and appropriate intervention. In fact, with treatment, many preschool-age children will "catch-up" with their typically developing peers and require no special services once they reach school age. Some children, however, will need many years of treatment to develop functional communication skills.
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Can Childhood Language Disorders be prevented?

Some Childhood Language Disorders may be prevented through early identification and treatment. For example, prompt intervention with hearing aids and language and speech stimulation programs for infants born with hearing loss may prevent delayed language development. For children with limited language-learning opportunities, enrollment in early developmental preschools such as Head Start may reduce language delay.
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Where can parents get help if they suspect their child has a language disorder?

Parents should discuss their concerns with their pediatrician or primary healthcare provider. Parents may request free hearing, speech, and language screenings through their school district's "Child Find" program or obtain further information about resources in their community from their local RiteCare Childhood Language Program. They may also call the Scottish Rite Foundation of Colorado office in Denver at 303-861-2410 (toll free 866-289-6797) or Email us at r-i-t-e-c-a-r-e at scottish-rite-foundation dot org.
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