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Language Disorders

Language is used across all cultures to share ideas and connect with other people. It is a primary distinguishing factor between human beings and other species. We may not recognize the importance and intricacies of language until something goes awry.

In loose terms, language refers to the meaning of words, formation of novel words, putting words together, and using words appropriately. It is essential in our ability to communicate orally and in writing. We produce language verbally through speech or in writing through orthography, and comprehend by listening or reading.

Language can be broken down into the domains of semantics, syntax, morphology, phonology, and pragmatics.

A variety of disorders can affect one’s ability to understand or produce one or more of these aspects of language. Language therapy addresses client-specific deficits to work toward optimal linguistic functioning across academic, social, and occupational settings.

As part of typical development, children acquire language. Difficulty processing one or more components of language across any modality could suggest the presence of a language disorder or delay. Language disorders are characterized as receptive, when they affect a person’s ability to understand linguistic input, or expressive, when one has trouble formulating language. Language disturbances may present independently as a specific language impairment, or manifest as part of a learning disability or greater cognitive developmental delay. Depending on the nature of the disorder, children with language delays may have co-existing speech disorders.

Such disorders may be diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist independently or in conjunction with other relevant professionals.

Numerous adults experience a reduction in language comprehension and/or production following damage to the brain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. A common byproduct of stroke is aphasia, which refers to the communication impairment that results from damage to crucial language centers of the brain. Persons with aphasia may also experience concomitant dysarthria, apraxia, or dysphagia.

These persons benefit from speech and language intervention to improve their communication abilities. Patient caregivers and family members also benefit from being involved in the therapeutic process to better understand and adapt to their loved one’s sudden communication disturbances. Disorders that are neurological in nature often require a team-based approach. We are happy to collaborate with involved medical professionals in both the evaluation and treatment process.

Pragmatics refers to the social use of language. This includes adapting language across communication partners, turn-taking appropriately, and following the unwritten “rules” of conversation. Many children and adults face pragmatic difficulties as a result of cognitive or intellectual disabilities, such as Autism. Even the most mild forms of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome can lead to pragmatic disturbances. Limitations in interpersonal speaking skills can affect one’s social, academic, and occupational functioning. This in turn may lead to lower social acceptance and feelings of isolation.

Pragmatic difficulties often co-occur with other language issues, such as limitations in grammatical structure, expression of ideas, and storytelling. In other cases, an individual has completely intact language form and structure but has trouble communicating in high-pressure or social situations.

Speech therapy can help clients understand how to use language appropriately to facilitate interpersonal interaction. Our clinicians have particular expertise working with pre-teens and adolescents on developing social skills, though services are available for any age!

Pragmatic language or social skills training may involve: use of scripts, teaching how to request appropriately, conveying background information to novel listeners, staying on topic, telling organized stories, rephrasing when misunderstood, using verbal and nonverbal cues, maintaining appropriate eye contact and facial expressions, understanding figurative/non-literal language, and other tactics to improve social communication.

Given that pragmatic norms vary around the world, a client’s cultural and linguistic background will always be taken into consideration during both assessment and treatment.

Our certified bilingual clinician is trained to evaluate children and adults from diverse backgrounds to efficiently determine the nature of a language disorder and its relationship with the client’s bilingualism or multilingualism.

Language evaluations are available in both English and Italian.
Tutti i nostri servizi sono disponibili in Italiano.

The initial consultation will assess receptive, expressive, and pragmatic language skills across the modalities of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. This may be done in the form of dynamic assessment, narrative retell, and conversational language samples. Relevant background information will be obtained via client and/or caregiver interview, in addition to relevant medical or academic documentation.

Language will be assessed via both formal and informal measures. In pediatric cases, the parent may be asked to provide a written list of the child’s utterances at home or with peers to provide the most comprehensive data for analysis.

We also offer comprehensive evaluations for those who would like an extensive report beyond that of the initial consultation. In addition to the components of the initial consultation, each evaluation will include assessment of related communication domains, an extended case-history, and communication with other professionals (e.g. psychologist, child’s teacher) when appropriate. Prior to an evaluation, we will conduct a free 15-minute phone conversation to determine the assessment methodologies appropriate for you or your child’s concerns.

After the initial consultation or evaluation, the clinician will provide you with a treatment plan including a recommended frequency and total number of sessions. However, the frequency of sessions is at your discretion and amenable based on progress. Though most clients are seen for treatment once per week, a handful prefer or may be recommended to receive more frequent sessions depending on severity, type of condition/disorder, and urgency to remediate the issue. We are happy to work with you to determine how many sessions will fit your specific needs. This can be adjusted at any time.

Therapy for language disorders is tailored to address client-specific deficits and areas of concern. For children, treatment aims may involve maximizing the child’s current abilities while establishing a strong foundation for further linguistic development. Therapy goals may target auditory processing, narrative retell, literacy skills, expansion of verbal utterances, and more depending on the child. In the case of acquired language disorders, treatment focuses on retraining the disrupted neurological pathways to improve language retrieval and production. Pragmatic/social skills training will address communication “rules” and standards to improve interpersonal communication across academic, social, and occupational settings.

Clients with language concerns are typically seen for therapy once per week for one hour. For young children, however, we recommend 30-minute sessions to maintain participation and satisfaction.