What is a Specific Language Impairment?

What is a Specific Language Impairment?

Specific Language Impairment (also referred to as SLI) is a term for a developmental language disorder that occurs when language skills do not develop as they should, and these challenges cannot be attributed to other developmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, traumatic brain injury, apraxia or speech or hearing loss. SLI is also sometimes referred to as childhood dysphasia or developmental language disorder and is typically attributed to a language processing disorder. Studies have shown that SLI is detected in 5-10% of preschool-aged children. 

Getting support for a child who is struggling with the development of their language skills is essential. Without help, a child with an SLI will likely struggle to succeed in school, as well as in social situations. Don’t wait to get help for your child, get started by scheduling your free introductory call with Great Speech today!  

What is an Example of a Language Impairment?

Most language impairments are categorized as either Expressive Language Disorders or Receptive Language Disorders.

Expressive Language Disorder refers to difficulties related to expressing oneself through the use of language. This means someone with this type of disorder may struggle to put their thoughts, ideas, and feelings together with words. They may also have difficulty forming sentences, using language appropriately in a variety of situations, and recalling words as they need them. 

Receptive Language Disorder refers to difficulties related to receiving information through language and understanding others. A child with a receptive language disorder may struggle to comprehend complex sentences, may have difficulty following directions, and appear to be disinterested or unengaged in what is being said to them by others. 

What are the Symptoms of Specific Language Impairment?

A child who is diagnosed with a Specific Language Impairment likely has a history of delays in language development such as beginning to talk late and not reaching other language milestones for their age. 

Some of the most common symptoms of an SLI in young children include:

  • Delayed ability to put words together and form sentences
  • Difficulty learning new words and making conversation
  • Struggles to follow directions because they aren’t able to fully comprehend the instructions
  • Frequently makes grammatical errors when talking

While it is normal for some children who begin talking late to eventually catch up with their peers, children who are affected by an SLI will have persistent challenges related to language. 

Some of the symptoms of an SLI in older children and adults include:

  • Avoids using complex sentences
  • Struggles to find the right words when talking
  • Finds understanding figurative language difficult
  • Challenges related to reading and reading comprehension
  • Struggles to organize their thoughts and accurately recount a story 
  • Makes frequent grammar and spelling errors

Is Dyslexia a Language Impairment?

Dyslexia is often described as a “language-based” disorder, as it affects phonological skills. Individuals with dyslexia typically struggle with phonological awareness, grammatical awareness, word retrieval, and pronunciation. 

While dyslexia and SLI can share common symptoms, they are separate developmental disabilities. Those with dyslexia may exhibit difficulties with spoken language beyond pronunciation and phonology, these challenges must be severe in order for the individual to be diagnosed with an SLI as well. By the same token, individuals are only diagnosed with dyslexia when the challenges with word reading and spelling are severe. 

What Causes a Specific Language Impairment?

The exact cause of Specific Language Impairment is unknown, however recent studies have shown that there is a strong genetic link when it comes to individuals affected by this disorder. Those with SLI are much more likely to have close relatives with speech and language difficulties. Research shows that between 50-70 percent of individuals with SLI also have at least one other close family member with the same disorder. 

It is important to note that learning more than one language simultaneously does not result in the development of SLI. An SLI can, however, affect both children who speak multiple languages and children who only speak one language equally. Whatever the underlying cause may be, getting help for someone with an SLI is deeply important. Getting support for yourself or your loved one is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today. 

How is a Specific Language Impairment Treated?

The best form of treatment for SLI is working closely with a qualified and experienced speech and language pathologist. Treatment can be provided through the child’s school, in the home, in private clinics, or in outpatient hospital situations. 

It is ideal to identify and treat SLI in children as early in the child’s life as possible. While early intervention offers the best outcome, people of all ages can respond well to treatment with a speech and language pathologist. The course of treatment set out by the speech and language pathologist will depend on the age of the child and their specific areas of difficulty. Starting treatment for an SLI early in a child’s life can help them to:

  • Understand and develop elements of grammar that are absent
  • Expand their vocabulary and comprehension of words
  • Improve social communication skills
  • Properly follow directions
  • Organizing their thoughts and information they receive
  • Further develop speaking, writing, and reading skills

When it comes to speech therapy for an SLI, the goal is to encourage general language development as well as to teach specific language skills to enhance and improve everyday communication abilities. Recent research has shown that speech therapy will not only improve overall communication skills but will also lead to academic and social success and improved quality of life.

Treating an SLI through speech therapy is especially well-suited to the online speech therapy model. At Great Speech, our therapists are specially trained to diagnose language disorders and then work to improve communication skills through a customized treatment program that sets each client up for success.

Are you ready to begin online speech therapy with Great Speech? Click here to get started today!