Language acquisition is one of the most complex of human processes. For many years, it was considered a basic human competency. However, lately it has become, for many psychologists, the most special process, one which is biologically programmed.
At any rate, language development influences both people and global evolution. It allows communication, establishes social relationships and regulates our behavior. Therefore, the process of teaching and learning revolves around this complex acquisition and ultimately so does a school’s success.
This is why teachers should be aware of the most common disorders of the language of our students. Recognizing these will help pupils to receive early care and the appropriate treatment. Only through this recognition can we alleviate shortcomings and prevent further difficulties.
Most frequent disorders in child language development.
- Dyslalia. Dyslalia is an articulatory disorder in which very often children do not pronounce sounds clearly or they replace one sound for another. It is the most common language impairment. Providing correct oral models, along with family counseling, often helps solve the problem. It requires speech therapy intervention.
- Mild language delay. This occurs in children without apparent pathological cause, and presents as a delay in the development of language compared with children of the same chronological age. A language delay can be receptive, expressive, or a combination of both. Speech and language therapy is required.
- Mutism. This is the total disappearance of language, either gradually or suddenly. The most common type of silence is called «selective». In this case the child refuses to talk to certain people or in certain contexts. It is generally associated with other underlying problems. If the real causes of the problem are addressed it is usually solved.
- Dysphonia. This is a voice disorder affecting the vocal chords (tone, whistle voice, melody). Usually, it occurs because of an impairment of the vocal chords and eventually vocal cords can fail and as a result the voice has a hoarseness, which over time can become worse. Screaming children can suffer in the future from Dysphonia.
- Aphasia. This is total or partial loss of language due to a brain injury. The consequences for children are often less devastating than in adults because brain plasticity in children makes it possible for them to recover their language.
- Stammering. This is an alteration in the rhythm of speech, characterized by a series of spasmodic hesitations and repetitions. Some children around three years old may suffer from this disorder, but frequently it is due to an evolutionary characteristic which will disappear with time. Symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
- Linguistic aspects: Fillers, disorganization between thought and language, etc.
- Behavioral aspects: Anxiety, withdrawal, muteness, etc.
- Body and breathing aspects: Spasms, respiratory disorders, facial stiffness, etc.
- Dysglossia. Articulation disorders caused by a malformation of speech organs such as lips, tongue or palate. In these cases the family are referred to a specialist.
- Dysarthria. Articulation disorders caused by a neurological etiology, which it is why it is often associated with other types of disorders as well. Often it is associated with cerebral palsy and therefore it requires specialized intervention.
- Autism. This is a disorder characterized by the presence of a severe communication barrier and a lack of social interaction. Some of the most common characteristics of this type of language are the involuntary repetition of words or phrases and difficulties in articulating and receiving information. There are three types of profiles:
- Mutism or absence of language
- Early onset of language loss and possible gradual subsequent acquisition
- Delayed language development
- Hearing impairment. Deafness is not a language disorder in itself, but can cause it. This is because it prevents or reduces the exposure to speech sounds that are basic requirements for children to develop speech.