Communication disorders in young children
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Communication disorders in young children . What is communication ?. Exchange of information with others. understand. produce. messages. Forms of communication. Nonlinguistic (gestures, body posture, facial expression, eye contact, head and body movement)

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Communication disorders in young children l.jpg
Communication disorders in young children

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What is communication ?

Exchange of information

with others




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Forms of communication

  • Nonlinguistic (gestures, bodyposture, facial expression, eye contact, head and body movement)

  • Verbal = words (speaking, writing, sign language)

  • Paralinguistic (tone of voice, emphasis of words)

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Communication development

  • Signals: joint attention, gestural communication, turn-taking

  • Language comprehension

  • Language production

The ability to understand develops before the ability to speak

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  • Communication varies with the child’s ageand developmental status

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1 to 6 months

6 to 9 months

10 to 11 months

12 months

13 to 15 months

16 to 18 months

19 to 21 months

22 to 24 months

Coos in response to voice


says "mama/dada”, no meaning

Says "mama/dada" with meaning

Four to seven words & jargon

10 words, some echolalia, jargon

Vocabulary of 20 words

Two-word phrases, vocabulary>50

Speech milestones

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2 to 2 1/2 years

2 1/2 to 3 years

3 to 4 years

4 to 5 years

400 words, two- to three-word phrases, use of pronouns

Plurals and past tense, knows age and sex, 3-5 words per sentence

3-6 words per sentence, asks questions, tells stories

6-8 words per sentence, names four colors, counts 10 pennies correctly

Speech milestones

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Signs of concern

  • Not babbling by 12 to 15 months

  • Not comprehending simple commands by the age of 18 months

  • Not talking by 2 years

  • Not making sentences by 3 years

  • Difficulty telling a simple story by 4-5 years

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Speech delay

  • Speech delay is defined as the failure to acquire words by 18-24 months of age or phrases by 3 years of age

Delayed acquisition of speech is not always due to late maturation in children !

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The impact of communication disorder

  • The communication has a long-term impact on:

    • learning (reading)

    • social interaction

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  • Language - rule-based system of symbolic communication involving a set of small units

  • Speech - oral production & articulation of words

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Form: phonology morphology syntax

Content: semantics

Function: pragmatic






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Improper use of words and their meanings

Inability to express ideas

Inappropriate grammatical patterns

Reduced vocabulary

Inability to follow directions


Articulation or phonological disorders

Difficulties with the pitch, volume or quality of the voice

Language disorders

Speech disorders

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Major types of communication disorders

  • Language disorders (60%)

    • general language delay (MR, autism, DD)

    • specific language impairment (expressive, receptive + expressive)

  • Speech disorders (40%)

  • Hearing disorders

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Epidemiology of communication disorders

  • The most common developmental problem in young children (25-50%)

  • The disorder is 3-4 times more common in boys than in girls

Early identification and early intervention are important

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Language variations

Familiar setting during examination !

  • Cultural background

  • Bilingualism

  • Maturation delay - Late talkers

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  • A temporary delay in the onset of both languages

  • Comprehension of the two languages is normal

  • The child usually becomes proficient in both languages before 5 years

Children cannot have a communication disorder in one language alone

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Hearing loss

Mental retardation

Autism /PDD

Acquired brain damage (left hemisphere)

Expressive language disorder

Receptive aphasia

Causes of language disorders

  • Seizures

  • CP

  • Elective mutism

  • Psychosocial deprivation

Specific language impairment

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Hearing Loss

  • The most frequently overlooked disorder affecting speech development

  • Common causes: recurring middle ear infections, congenital malformations, meningitis, trauma, genetic disorders

  • Diagnosis - behavioral or physiologic audiometry

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Hearing Loss

  • Suspect hearing loss when a child does not seem to understand; is inattentive; looks intently at others who are speaking; or better recognizes sounds with more lip movement, such as the letter W.

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Developmental Delay

  • Speech delay caused by late maturation can be mild, moderate, severe, or very severe, depending on the level of impairment of word sounds, spoken language, and language comprehension.

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Mental Retardation

Generalized delay suggestsmental retardation as the causeof a child's speech delay

  • Over half of all mentally retarded children are speech delayed

  • Speech development is relatively more delayed in MR children than are other fields of development

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Mental retardation

  • Don't overlook common coexisting contributors such as: deafness, dysarthria, or sensory deprivation

  • Global language delay, delayed auditory comprehension and delayed use of gestures

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Pervasive Developmental DisordersDSM-IV

  • Autistic disorder

  • PDD-NOS (Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified)

  • Asperger’s disorder

  • Rett’s syndrome

  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (Heller’s syndrome)

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  • Onset before 36 months (18-30 mo.)

  • Prevalence 1-2:1000

  • Autism is more common in boys (3-4:1)

  • Recurrence risk in families 3-8%

  • Biologic cause in 10-30%: genetic syndromes, congenital infections, HIE, neurocutaneus, metabolic, epileptic

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  • Onset occurs before 36 months

  • Autistic children fail to make eye contact, smile socially, respond to being hugged or use gestures to communicate

  • Ritualistic and compulsive behaviors, including stereotyped repetitive motor activity

  • Autism is three to four times more common in boys than in girls

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  • Impairment in social interaction

  • Impairment in language & communication

  • Restricted, repetitive & stereotyped pattern of behavior, interest & activities

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Autism & language

  • About half of autistic children don't develop useful speech by age 5 and have a poor prognosis

  • Speech abnormalities: echolalia, perseveration, pronoun confusion, abnormalities of prosody, semantic pragmatic disorder

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Cerebral Palsy

  • Delay in speech is common in CP

  • Speech delay occurs most often in athetoid type of CP

  • Factors that may account for the speech delay: hearing loss, spasticity or incoordination of the muscles of the tongue, coexisting MR or a defect in the cerebral cortex

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Left Cerebral Lesion

  • If acquired before 6 years, left-brain lesions shift the language center to the right hemisphere

  • May cause speech delay and "pathologic" left-handedness (too early or without a family history of left-handedness)

  • Aphasia, the loss of previously acquired speech, is almost always traced to a left cerebral lesion

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  • When these begin in the first decade, they can cause delayed speech or aphasia and can result in verbal auditory agnosia (word deafness)

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Elective mutism

  • These children are negativistic, shy, timid and withdrawn

  • Symptoms of poor adjustment, such as poor peer relationships or overdependence on their parents

  • Anxiety, attention seeking, or embarrassment about a speech deficit

  • Usually family psychopathology

  • Can persist for months or years

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Psychosocial Factors

  • Speech development can be slower in:

    • twins

    • younger siblings

    • children in lower socioeconomic classes

    • children of deaf-mute parents

    • children exposed to more than one language.

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Language regression

  • Autistic regression

  • Landau Kleffner - Aquired epileptic aphasia

  • ESES - Electrical status epilepticus in sleep

  • Disintegrative disorder

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Specific language impairment = Developmental language disorders (DLD)

  • 5-10% of preschooler

  • Difficulties in language acquisition (without hearing impairment, low intelligence and neurological damage)

  • Diagnosis by exclusion

  • Risk for reading/academic difficulty & social failure

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Developmental language disorders (DLD) - major types disorders (DLD)

  • Phonology-syntactic:

    • Mixed receptive-expressive (verbal auditory agnosia)

    • Expressive only (verbal dyspraxia)

  • Higher order processing (semantic-pragmatic):

    • Autistic spectrum

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Receptive Aphasia-word deafness disorders (DLD)

  • A deficit in comprehension of spoken language with normal responses to nonverbal auditory stimuli

  • The speech is delayed, sparse, agrammatic and indistinct in articulation

  • Most children with gradually acquire a language of their own, understood only by those who are familiar with them

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Prognosis disorders (DLD)

  • Expressive delay alone resolve spontaneously in the pre-school period

  • A poorer prognosis for children with expressive/receptive delays

  • It is not possible to predict at the time of identification, which of the children with expressive delay are likely to have persistent problems

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Diagnostic evaluation disorders (DLD)

All children with speech delay should be referred for audiometry

  • Audiometry with special earphones

  • Tympanometry

  • An auditory brain-stem response

  • Imaging modalities are not indicated

  • Prolonged sleep EEG is indicated in language regression (subclinical epileptiform EEG)

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Diagnostic evaluation disorders (DLD)

  • Additional tests should be ordered only when they are indicated

  • A karyotype for chromosomal abnormalities and a DNA test in children who have the phenotypic appearance of fragile X synd.

  • An EEG should be considered in children with seizures or with significant receptive language disabilities or language regression (subclinical seizure activities)

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Developmental language disorders disorders (DLD) -etiology

  • Genetic !

  • Twin studies (96% concordance in MZ, 69% in DZ)

  • Linkage to chromosome 7q31

  • FOXP2 gene (Nature 413:4 oct,2001)