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Expressive language disorder - developmental

Alternative names

Developmental expressive language disorder is a disorder in which a child has lower-than-normal proficiency for his or her age in vocabulary, the production of complex sentences, and recall of words.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Three to ten percent of all school age children have expressive language disorder. The cause of this disorder is unknown, and may vary in different cases. Cerebral damage and malnutrition may cause some cases -- perhaps in combination with genetic factors.


  • below average vocabulary skills
  • improper use of correct tenses
  • problems in the production of complex sentences
  • problems in recalling words

Signs and tests

Standardized expressive language and non-verbal intellectual tests should be conducted, if an expressive language disorder is suspected. Testing for other learning disabilities should also be done.


Language therapy is the best approach to this type of disorder. The goal of this therapy is to increase the number of phrases a child can use. This is done by using "block building techniques" and speech therapy.

Expectations (prognosis)

The degree of recovery depends on the severity of the disorder, but there can be close to full recovery given good prognostic indicators (i.e., reversible factors like vitamin deficiencies, etc.).


  • problems with socialization
  • learning problems
  • low self esteem

Calling your health care provider

Parents who are concerned about their child's language ability should have the child tested.


Good nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood and prenatal care may help, but other methods of prevention are unknown.

Update Date: 5/24/2002

Elizabeth Hait, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT