Children’s Language and Behavior: Is Language Impairment Causing Your Child’s Behavior Problem?

Children’s Language and Behavior: Is Language Impairment Causing Your Child’s Behavior Problem?

Children with behavioral difficulties often have language difficulties that go unrecognized. Research has revealed a strong correlation between behavioral and emotional disorders (BEDs) and language disorders. Approximately 55% to 72% of children with behavioral and emotional difficulties will also have some type of language problem. For some it may be like a chicken and egg issue. Which came first? The language problem or the behavior problem? Regardless of how it begins, there is no doubt that language influences behavior and that behavior influences language. People with behavioral and emotional difficulties may have trouble understanding what people are saying and may also have trouble putting their thoughts into words. The area of ​​language that is most affected is the social use of language – communicating with others in everyday situations; this is known as pragmatic language. A speech-language pathologist is the professional who can determine if there is a language problem and how mild or severe it is. Unfortunately, the speech-language pathologist is often overlooked because behavior problems are the number one concern.

I have often heard the responses “It’s just behavior”, “He understands when he wants to”, “He’s just stubborn” or other similar statements. One memory that stands out in my mind is when I was asked to assess a fourteen-year-old. It was the first time that his language had been tested. The assessment revealed a six-year lag in language skills; her language was equal to that of an eight year old child. When a language disorder goes undetected, it not only affects communication, but also self-esteem.

Every child who has behavior problems needs and should have a language evaluation. A language assessment may find out how well your child understands, is able to speak, and how well he can use language in his daily life. Knowing what a child’s language skills are will also help develop an appropriate educational program, help develop a behavioral intervention program, and may also provide useful information to the child’s counselor or psychologist.

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