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Receptive language difficulties

Receptive language difficulties

Receptive language skills refers to the child’s ability to understand and follow spoken and written language. Early identification of these difficulties can help to decrease the impact it has on a child’s life.

Our speech and language therapists can assess your child’s receptive language skills to determine the specific difficulties your child is presenting with. Our speech and language therapists can then provide a therapy programme that works specifically on the language difficulties observed in the assessments.

Speech and language therapy can help to gradually increase the amount and type of key information a child can understand in an utterance of varying lengths. This can help increase your child’s engagement in school and expand their academic progress.

What is receptive language?

Receptive language is understanding words, phrases and the language of others in both spoken and written form. Sometimes this information can be non-verbal meaning it can be demonstrated in the person’s body language or tone of voice. The environment and situation also adds to a person’s understanding of what is being said. A child may know their parent is telling them to go and get their shoes as they have keys in their hand and is pointing towards the door.

Receptive language skills are important in communication as they allow you to have successful interactions with others. They are key to communication as they allow a reciprocal exchange to take place. If a child is not understanding what is being said to them, they cannot give an appropriate response. This can often appear as the child being rude, having bad behaviour and leading to a breakdown in conversation or communication.

Receptive language difficulties can appear as a delay or a disorder. When a child has a receptive language delay, they are learning language following a typical development pattern but at a slower rate than what is expected for their age. The language of a child who has a receptive language disorder, will develop in an unusual pattern.

To have successful receptive language, a child must have the following skills:

Auditory processing

Children with auditory processing difficulties will have difficulty in hearing, understanding and interpreting people's spoken messages.

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Attention and memory

Our speech and language therapists will be able to support children who may have difficulties with their attention, listening and memory skills. Attention and memory have a big impact on a child's ability to learn new language.

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Understanding of words at different levels

Children must be able to understand words as simple vocabulary, in short phrases, in sentences and in long narratives to fully understand other people's language.

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Understanding of different concepts

Examples of concepts include hot, cold, big, little etc. Understanding these can help aid a child’s understanding of the world and context around them.

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Inferential comprehension

Inferential comprehension refers to an individual's ability to understand things that are not concrete. Children must be able to take information from a speaker in order to predict and make assumptions about situations.

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Semantic skills

Semantics refers to vocabulary and a child’s understanding of words. A child must be able to understand words and assign the correct meaning of that word to an object.

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Grammar (syntax and morphology)

Grammar occurs in all parts of language. It occurs within words and on a larger scale within sentences. Children must be able to understand the different parts of grammar to fully understand language and different instructions.

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Speech and language therapy assessments for receptive language difficulties

Our speech and language therapists can assess your child’s receptive language skills to identify their specific areas of difficulties.

Depending on your child’s abilities an assessment of receptive language skills can vary between understanding single words to understanding sentences, paragraphs and narratives. A receptive language assessment can also look at a child’s ability to understand different concepts, infer from information given and identify semantic relations. Our speech and language therapists will use the information from the assessments to create an individualised therapy programme that targets your child’s specific areas of difficulty.

The outcome of the assessments will establish:

  • Identification of specific receptive language difficulties.
  • Identification of a delay or disorder.
  • Identification of the impact of receptive language difficulties on a child’s development.
  • Recognition of the impact of receptive language difficulties on the child’s daily living in school, at home and in other social and communicative environments.
  • Identification of the child’s strengths in language.

Kids Feeding Team

SLT for Kids work closely with the Kids Feeding Team, in order to ensure each child has a safe and effective swallow. The Kids Feeding Team is a ultidisciplinary tem that work closely with a variety of childrens eating and drinking difficulties.


Assessments available for receptive language difficulties:

Speech and language therapy treatment for receptive language difficulties

Speech and language therapy can help to increase a child’s receptive language skills and understanding of various concepts.

Our speech and language therapists will work with you and your child to create a therapy programme that works on your child’s areas of difficulties and their priorities. Your child’s therapy programme will work to increase their understanding of spoken and written language in both a school and home environment.

Speech and language therapy available for receptive language difficulties include:

  • Individual therapy.
  • Group therapy.
  • Pre-verbal skills group.
  • Training, advice, support and strategies for parents, teachers and other professionals.
  • Parent child interaction therapy e.g. Hanen approach.
  • Development of preverbal skills.
  • Information carrying words e.g. Derbyshire language scheme.
  • Visual aids to support understanding of language.
  • Naturalistic approaches e.g. adjusting the child’s communicative environment.
  • Development of inference.
  • Comprehension monitoring.
  • Specialist interventions e.g. Shape coding, word wizard, earobics, language for thinking, Strathclyde language intervention programme, talking time, Makaton.

Benefits of therapy include:

  • Increased engagement at home and in school.
  • Increased ability to communicate with adults and peers appropriately.
  • Improved ability to understand respond to question.
  • Increase in ability to follow instructions.
  • Increased ability to develop an understanding of different concepts.
  • Improved academic learning and accessing the curriculum.

Speech and language therapy can provide specific therapy activities to increase your child’s understanding of language. Speech and language therapy can work on increasing your child’s understanding of commonly used words at single word level through to sentence level. Therapy can be carried out using naturalistic approaches as well as direct focussed intervention. Our speech and language therapists work to provide a holistic approach to intervention by providing the most effective therapeutic management.

Conditions that SLT for Kids commonly work with

Receptive language difficulties can sometimes be the only difficulty children present with, however they are often secondary to other conditions. Our speech and language therapists frequently assess and give therapy for children with speech, language and communication difficulties resulting from:

Some conditions, such as the ones listed above, can have an impact on a child’s receptive language skills. Our speech and language therapists will work to improve your child’s understanding of spoken language, in order to increase their activity and participation in daily life. Our speech and language therapists will take into consideration your child’s strengths and needs before creating a therapy programme to suit their difficulties in context of their goals.


If your child is struggling to understand spoken or written language at school or at home, a speech and language therapist can provide assessments and therapy to reduce the levels of difficulty they are experiencing and enhance their participation in activities.

Have questions?

If you have any questions about the services that we provide or the difficulties that we are able to help, do not hesitate to contact us.


What to do next

Our speech and language therapists will provide a detailed assessment and ongoing therapy for receptive language difficulties. If you think that your child has poor receptive language skills, or have been alerted to this from school then please email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call us on 0330 088 2298.

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