Teaching Strategies for Students with Expressive Language Disorders

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Expressive language disorder occurs when a person is unable to express him or herself using spoken language. Students with this disorder have special needs. When you are able to meet their needs, the learning environment is enriched for everyone.

What is Expressive Language Disorder?

Have you ever had one of those moments where you knew what you wanted to say, but you just couldn't find the right word for it? Sure, we've all had moments like that; and we laugh about them. Can you imagine what it would be like if that was what you experienced every time you tried to talk? That is exactly what it is like for someone with expressive language disorder.

Language involves speech. When a person is expressive, he is able to transfer meaning and feeling to another person. Thus, expressive language is the ability to transfer meaning and feeling to others through the use of speech. It stands to reason that a person with expressive language disorder has difficulty expressing themselves in words at an age-appropriate level.

Difficulty expressing themselves in words does not mean that people with expressive language disorder (or difficulties) are intellectually disabled. Their intellectual abilities may be completely age-appropriate while their language skills could be many years delayed. The job of a teacher is to help identify these students with language needs while encouraging and supporting their academic progress as well.

Identifying Possible Expressive Language Disorder

Students who often stammer or speak very slowly may be showing signs of expressive language disorder. A stutter or frequently filling sentences with words like 'um' could indicate the student is working to find the word they want to use. These students may also avoid class discussions due to the difficulty in expressing their thoughts to the class.

Other signs of expressive language disorder are an inability to understand, follow, or tell jokes to their peers. Language patterns such as sarcasm, metaphors, and story-telling seem lost on them.

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