Difficulties using words and forming sentences


Difficulties using words, signs or gestures to convey information are often referred to as Expressive Language difficulties or Expressive Language Delay. Children with an expressive language delay often have difficulty putting words together to express ideas in sentences in a clear manner that is appropriate for their age. As a general rule of thumb:


· Children at 1 year of age use single words e.g. “Mummy”

· Children at 2 years of age begin to combine 2 words e.g. “Mummy car”

· Children at 3 years of age begin to combine 3 words e.g. “Mummy go car”

· Children at 4 years of age begin to form longer and more complex sentences


Children with an expressive language delay may form sentences which are shorter/more simple than those of other children the same age. They may have trouble expressing their thoughts/ideas to you verbally and may become frustrated. They may make grammatical errors e.g. using “he” for boys and girls or they may use many non specific words e.g. “water thing” instead of “the jug”.


In older children, expressive language difficulties may be evident if the child uses only simple sentence structures rather than combing ideas into a longer sentence e.g. “No chocolate. I got popcorn” instead of “I got popcorn instead of the chocolate”. The child may have difficulties expressing ideas in a clear manner both at home and in the classroom. They may struggle to provide adequate descriptions or recount events.



Why is it important to see a Speech Pathologist for difficulties using words and forming sentences?

Expressive language difficulties make it very challenging for children to express themselves to others. This can become very frustrating for not only the child, but also their friends and family who want to understand what they are trying to say! Expressive language difficulties may prevent children from participating in class discussions and cause children to fall behind at school. These difficulties can also impact on children’s self esteem and prevent them from interacting confidently with their peers.

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