Difficulties with understanding
In younger children, understanding begins as the child starts to recognise and respond to the voices of others. Over time the child begins to respond to the speech of others by looking towards the person who is speaking, by smiling or perhaps by babbling. Children also learn to detect changes in the tone of voice of others. As the child’s understanding grows, they begin to recognise familiar words and understand their meaning e.g. “no”. As children begin to understand more and more words, they learn to understand sentences, questions and simple directions.
Difficulties with understanding language (also known as receptive language difficulties) make it difficult for children to interact with others. A young child who is having difficulty understanding language may have difficulty identifying familiar items in a picture book (e.g. pointing to the correct picture when you say “Where’s the cat?”). They may have trouble understanding familiar body part words (e.g. “Where’s your nose?”) or following simple directions (e.g. “Put the book on the table”).
In older children, difficulties with understanding may become apparent if the child has difficulty answering questions, following instructions at child care or at school. Sometimes, difficulties with understanding may be very subtle and only become apparent when the child has difficulty understanding expressions/figurative language (e.g. “I’m dying of thirst!”) and making inferences from information in the middle-later primary school years.
It is also very important to ensure that your child’s hearing is normal. If you have any concerns that your child may not be hearing what you/others are saying, attending a hearing assessment with an Audiologist is very important.
Why is it important to see a Speech Pathologist for difficulties with understanding?
Children must be able to understand before they are able to express themselves clearly. Therefore, developing a good understanding of language is crucial in order to develop the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly using signs, words and sentences. Children who have difficulties understanding are at risk of falling behind their peers, both socially and academically due to difficulties following the conversation or understanding instructions and spoken/written information.