What are Receptive and Expressive Language Disorders?

Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others spoken or written language (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings orally or in writing (expressive language). Language disorders may occur in both spoken and written communication and may involve the form (phonology, morphology, syntax), content (semantics), and/or use (pragmatics) of language in functional and socially appropriate ways.

Receptive and expressive language can be disrupted in a variety of ways. An adult can acquire a language disorder known as aphasia through an injury to the brain, or a language disorder can be developmental and occur during childhood. Some developmental language disorders can be related to a specific diagnosis or syndrome (e.g., Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Fragile X syndrome, epilepsy, etc.). Many language disorders, however, do not have a known cause or specific diagnosis.


Evaluation for language disorders includes gathering a full profile of the individual’s communication strengths, challenges and goals. It is a comprehensive look at how they understand information and express their thoughts (see also speech sound disorders). This can include tests, observations, conversations, and information from the family.


Treatment is tailored to each client’s needs and is a collaboration between clinicians, the client, and the family in order to optimize the client’s communication. In some cases, we may consider augmentative communication as part of the treatment plan.

Associated Faculty

Julie Dunlap, MS, CCC-SLP - Senior Lecturer and Supervisor; Pediatric Unit Coordinator
Kate Krings, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
Tanna Neufeld, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
Amy Rodda, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
John Thorne, PhD, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor; Researcher 
Amy Pace, PhD - Assistant Professor; Researcher

Additional Resources

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):