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Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder

Contents of this page:

Definition    Return to top

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is a language disability that causes impairment of both the understanding and the expression of language.

Causes    Return to top

Three to five percent of all children have either receptive or expressive language disorder, or both. These children have difficulty understanding speech (language receptivity) and using language (language expression). The cause is unknown, but there may be genetic factors, and malnutrition may play a role.

Problems with receptive language skills usually begin before the age of four. Some mixed language disorders are caused by brain injury, and these are sometimes misdiagnosed as developmental disorders.

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Standardized receptive and expressive language tests can be given to any child suspected of having this disorder. An audiogram should also be given to rule out the possibility of deafness, as it is one of the most common causes of language problems.

All children diagnosed with this condition should be seen by a neurologist or developmental pediatric specialist to determine if the cause can be reversed.

Treatment    Return to top

Speech and language therapy are the best approach to this type of language disorder. Psychotherapy is also recommended because of the possibility of associated emotional or behavioral problems.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome varies based on the underlying cause. Brain injury or other structural pathology is generally associated with a poor outcome with chronic deficiencies in language, while other, more reversible causes can be treated effectively.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Difficulty understanding and using language can cause problems with social interaction and ability to function independently as an adult.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Parents who are concerned about their child's acquisition of language should have the child tested. Early intervention will provide the best possible outcome.

Update Date: 6/13/2006

Updated by: Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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