Communication Disorder

What is Communication Disorder?

Difficulty with language and speech is common for many children. Language disorders can include having issues with written language, problems with the articulation of words, and approaching communication in regards to the social cues including nonverbal and verbal communication. It is highly important to treat communication disorders as early as possible.

Overview of Communication Disorder

Communication disorders can relate to several different areas, including language, communication, and speech. Language is the utilization of a system of symbols (written words, sign language, spoken words, and/or pictures) and typically helps to facilitate communication. Communication is any type of nonverbal or verbal behavior that can impact the ideas, attitudes, or even the behavior of someone else. Speech is the construction of sounds and acts as a conduit for people to express themselves; speech includes fluency, articulation, resonance quality, and voice.

Communication disorders can include stuttering, misarticulation, and can even refer to the inability of speech and language use completely.

Speech sound disorder, social communication disorder, language disorder, childhood-onset stuttering (fluency disorder) are just a few of the many communication disorders. All communication disorders are related to speech, language, or hearing.

Speech Disorders

Precise muscle motions in the neck, head, abdomen, and chest produce speech. The development of speech typically takes several years to practice as it is a very gradual process. Regulation of muscles is learned throughout speech development to develop comprehensible speech. When a child reaches first grade, by estimation about five percent of kids have speech disorders that are noticeable, and most of these do not have a known cause.

A major category within these various speech disorders is dysfluency.

Stuttering, or childhood-onset fluency disorder, is a type of dysfluency that is the most serious. It occurs due to the flow of speech being disrupted. Stuttering is the repetition of sounds within speech, speech prolongation, and hesitations while speaking. 15 million people throughout the world deal with language dysfluency. It is typically revealed that an individual has dysfluency during childhood or at an early age, typically occurring the most for children between ages two and six, while they are still developing language. One out of every 30 children will likely go through a period of their life where their speech is not fluent and this period can six months and sometimes longer.

The most speech disorders are categorized as articulation difficulties. These issues refer to difficulty combining and forming sounds, usually due to distortion, substituting, or omitting them.

Voice disorders

Voice disorders refer to difficulty with loudness (prosody), pitch, and quality of the voice. This issue can cause issues with the way that voices sound. People who are listening can have a hard time understanding a person who has a voice disorder.

Airflow brought from the lungs and carried to the vocal folds within the larynx vibrate when they are brought close together, and this is how the voice is generated. The number of people who have trouble with their voice is upwards of 7.5 million. Normal speaking skills can become speechless if their vocal system fails. The vocal system can fail if there is an accident affecting the nerves that control the larynx functions, a viral infection, or surgical procedure.

There is an important distinction between aphasia, which is an issue with the production of language by the brain, and difficulty work word articulation.

Language disorders

The expression of communication through which beliefs, behavior, and knowledge can be explained, shared, or experienced is what language encompasses. The impairment of comprehension and/or expression of words is what comprises a language disorder. Form, function, or the content of language can be affected by the disorder. Language impairment affects between six to eight million people within the United States. Adults and children are affected differently by language disorders. A language system that is not yet fully acquired or developed affects kids who do not typically use language.

Hearing (auditory processing) disorders

Describing what happens within your brain when interpreting and recognizing the sounds around you is auditory processing. Energy is heard and recognized as sound while it is moving through the ear. It is then transformed into electrical impulses that the brain interprets. When something adversely affects the interpretation or processing of information, this is the disorder portion of auditory processing disorder (APD).

Kids who have APD do not typically identify the small differences between various sounds within words, despite the loud and clear nature of the sounds. To demonstrate this point, a child may actually hear, “We have two cows and chairs”, when actually, “We have two couches and chairs” was said. Noisy environments or listening to complex information especially affect APD.

APD can be called other names, such as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), auditory comprehension deficit, central deafness, central auditory dysfunction, auditory perception problem, and word deafness.

Symptoms of Communication Disorder

There are many symptoms of a language disorder, including the following:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Significantly lower language abilities than what is normal for the age of the individual
  • Difficulty using language to describe or explain a topic
  • Difficulty engaging in a conversation
  • Limited ability in learning different forms of language (written, spoken, or sign language)
  • Difficulty putting word endings together to form sentences that are grammatically correct

Speech Sound Disorder

  • Difficulty explaining things that they are trying to communicate to others
  • Speech sound production issues
  • Articulation issues
  • Excluding sounds when they are necessary
  • Sound distortion
  • Using sounds incorrectly in place of correct sounds

Stuttering: Child-Onset Fluency Disorder

  • Reiteration of sounds or syllables
  • Overextending consonants and vowels
  • Pausing during a word (broken words)
  • Substitution of words in order to avoid difficult words
  • Speech embarrassment
  • Frustration with difficulty to communicate
  • Pauses during speech (unfilled or filled)
  • Tension in producing words (blinking eyes, head jerking)

Pragmatic (Social) Communication Disorder

  • Difficulty communicating for social purposes, such as discussing information or greeting people
  • Nonverbal and verbal communication is typically problematic
  • Difficulty taking turns in conversations
  • Adjusting communication style for environment can be challenging, such as using a playground noise volume in a classroom
  • Ironic humor or metaphors may not come across explicitly and are often not understood correctly

Symptoms of specific language disorders:

Aphasia – A communication disorder that occurs when communication skills that were learned previously are lost due to harm to parts of the brain that are responsible for language.

The main types of aphasia are:

  1. Anomic aphasia: difficulty choosing the right words for places, events, or objects.
  2. Expressive aphasia: struggling to say what you want but the words cannot be found.
  3. Global aphasia: the inability to understand, speak, write, or read.
  4. Receptive aphasia: seeing a pattern or hearing a voice, but it is difficult to make sense of what you are seeing/hearing.
  5. Delayed language: Late development of the communication abilities that involve understanding and expressing ideas and thoughts.

Auditory processing disorder (APD): Kids who are diagnosed with this communication disorder usually have normal intelligence and hearing. Some symptoms of APD are:

  • Difficulty following directions with multiple steps
  • Processing information requires extra time
  • Difficulty listening properly
  • Problems with behavior
  • Academic performance suffers
  • Limited ability in retaining and paying attention to information that is discussed orally
  • Difficulty with spelling, reading, vocabulary, and comprehension
  • Limited ability with overall language use, specifically in regards to syllable sequences

While there are many symptoms of a communication disorder, people may only have one or two of these symptoms. These indicators can range from mild to severe. The most common symptom of communication disorders is that people have a difficult time understanding language as a whole.

Communication Disorder Causes

Unfortunately, there are numerous causes of communication disorders.

Potential causes include:

  • Hearing impairment
  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADD
  • Social skill deficits and other significant emotional or behavioral issues
  • Injury of the vocal cord
  • Physical disability: malformations of the cleft lip, palate, or nose
  • Dentures that do not properly fit
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Head trauma
  • Neurological diseases or disorders
  • Gilles de la Tourette syndrome
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Cri-du-chat syndrome

If you experience loss of communication or you have sudden onset of unexplained impairment of written or spoken language, you should call your physician or health care provider.

Treatments for Communication Disorder

Prevention is the best type of action for dealing with communication disorders.

You should contact your family physician if you suspect your child has issues with language or speech development. Speech and language pathologists are specialized health professionals who are experienced in treating and evaluating people with language, voice, speech, swallowing, or hearing disorders that negatively impact their communication.

These specialists are trained to talk with you about the general development and communication of your child. They will complete an evaluation of your child with language and speech tests. Hearing tests are typically also included in these types of evaluations because hearing issues directly affect language and speech development.

Test results will determine the course of action for you and your family for any communication disorder.

At-home activities may be suggested by the speech and language pathologist, these are aimed to stimulate language and speech development for your child. Activities for stay at home improvement can include talking in smaller sentences with simple words for imitation purposes, reading regularly to your child, or using correct pronunciation or grammar to repeat what your child has said. This demonstration of the accurate language or speech does not actually “correct” your small child, which could make communication unpleasant for them. Group or individual therapy can also be recommended, and further evaluation may be requested. Audiologists or developmental psychologists are other health professionals that may be able to further assist.

Treatment is a time-consuming and highly involved task but it is worthwhile because major results can be achieved if you approach treatment on a consistent basis.

Treatment is typically performed by a speech pathologist and can include:

  • Relearning of speech and language skills with aphasia
  • Developing proper control of the respiratory and vocal systems for accurate production of the voice for voice disorders
  • Coping with stuttering and increasing fluency of speech for fluency disorders
  • Learning accurate production of speech noises for articulation disorders
  • Understanding the disorder and attaining more overall control over it can improve social and educational environments

Treatment is usually provided for communication disorders in:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Community clinics
  • Private practices
  • Hospitals
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Schools
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Government agencies
  • Research laboratories

Communication Disorder Prevention

There are many ways to prevent communication disorders.

Prevention and early intervention are two of the best forms of treatment. Parents need to be knowledgeable about developmental milestones. Kids experience an intense period of language and speech development in the first three years of their life. The brain is maturing and developing during this period of time. The best type of development includes growing up in a world that has consistent exposure with sights and sounds of the language of people nearby.

There are known critical periods of time for language and speech development in children. The brain is developing and is at its prime to develop any language during the developmental period. It can be less efficient and more difficult to learn a language if the critical period of time has passed.

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Last Reviewed:
September 24, 2017
Last Updated:
December 07, 2017
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