Children with receptive language disorder have trouble understanding and processing language. Like an expressive language disorder, it may be either developmental or acquired.  Receptive language disorders usually begin before age four, and often co-exist with expressive language disorders (mixed receptive-expressive).

Language Disorders Signs 

  • difficulty following directions
  • decreased comprehension of “yes/no” and “wh” questions
  • limited vocabulary
  • poor understanding of grammatical markers and syntax
  • difficulty attending to spoken language

Expressive and receptive language disorders are frequently identified between ages 3-5, and speech-language treatment is recommended as soon as possible.


Preliminary research on potential risk factors have suggested biological components, such as low-birth weight, as well as family history and low parental education can increase the chance of developing language disorders. For children with phonological and expressive language difficulties, there is evidence supporting speech and language therapy. 

Note that these are distinct from speech disorders, which involve difficulty with the act of speech production, but not with language.

Language disorders tend to manifest in two different ways:

  • receptive language disorders (where one cannot properly comprehend language)
  • expressive language disorders (where one cannot properly communicate their intended message).