Speech & Language Disorders

Speech & Language Disorders

Speech Disorders

Speech Disorders are not the same as Language Disorders. A Speech Disorder refers to any condition that affects a person’s ability to produce the sounds that form words.

Speech Disorders can affect people of all ages.

Common types of Speech Disorders include stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria.
Stuttering refers to interruptions in the flow of speech.
Verbal apraxia refers to brain damage that impairs a person’s oral motor skills which affects their ability to form the sounds of speech correctly.
Dysarthria occurs when damage to the brain causes muscle weakness in a person’s face, lips, tongue, throat, or chest which can make speaking very difficult.

Language Disorders

A Language Disorder can cause issues with understanding and/or using spoken and/or written language. It makes it hard for someone to find the right words, communicate ideas, form clear sentences when speaking, understand what another person says, and organize information that they hear.

An individual may have difficulty with receptive language skills (i.e. difficulty understanding what others say, difficulty following simple directions, etc.), expressive language skills (i.e. difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings, limited vocabulary, etc.), or both.

An individual may also have difficulty with pragmatic language skills, which refer to the social language skills that we use in our daily interactions with others. This includes what we say, how we say it, our non-verbal communication (eye contact, facial expressions, body language etc.) and how appropriate our interactions are in a given situation.

A language disorder is not the same as a hearing issue or a speech disorder. Individuals with Language Disorders typically have no trouble hearing or pronouncing words. Their challenge is mastering and applying the rules of language, like grammar.

Language Disorders can be acquired or developmental.
An acquired language disorder, like Aphasia, shows up only after the person has had a neurological illness or injury (e.g. stroke, head injury).
A developmental language disorder tends to show up in childhood.

About 5% of school-aged children have a Language Disorder.

Some research suggests that children with Language Disorders also have problems with reading and writing. In fact, it is not uncommon for children with language and/or speech disorders to be later identified as having a Learning Disability, particularly in the literacy areas.


A great resource is the Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists   http://acslpa.ab.ca/