Communication Disorders

What is a Communication Disorder?

Communication disorders are characterized by persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. They include problems related to speech, language and auditory processing that impair individual’s language ability, speaking, hearing, and normal communication with others.

Children with communication disorders often struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, show poor judgment, and struggle academically. Young children with communication disorders may have a limited vocabulary for their age or not speak at all, while others may have difficulty understanding simple directions or naming objects. School-aged children may have difficulty understanding and formulating words, and teenagers may experience difficulty understanding or expressing abstract ideas.

In general, communication disorders limit effective communication, social relationships, academic achievement, and occupational performance.

What Types of Communication Disorders are There?

According to the DSM5, communication disorders include:

Language Disorders: Language abilities that are substantially below those expected for age, resulting in limited communication, social participation, academic achievement or occupational performance, and persistent difficulties in the acquisition and use of language including:

  • Reduced vocabulary (word knowledge and use)
  • Limited sentence structure (ability to put words and word endings together to form sentences based on the rules of grammar and morphology)
  • Impairments in discourse (ability to use vocabulary and connect sentences to describe a topic or series of events or have a conversation)

Speech Sound Disorders:Persistent difficulty with speech sound production that interferes with speech intelligibility or prevents verbal communication.

Childhood Onset Fluency Disorders (Stuttering):Disturbances in the normal fluency and time patterning of speech including:

  • sound and syllable repetitions
  • sound prolongations of consonants and vowels
  • broken words and word substitutions used to avoid problematic words

Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorders:Persistent difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication that includes:

  • Deficits in using communication for social purposes in a manner that is appropriate for the social context/ impairment of the ability to change communication to match context or needs of the listener
  • Difficulties following rules for conversation and storytelling (such as taking turns in conversation)
  • Difficulties understanding what is not explicitly stated and non- literal or ambiguous meanings of language