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Language Processing

Language processing refers to the ability to attach meaning to spoken information and formulate a response that is either spoken or written. It is an extremely important skill that affects many areas of a child’s life, so it is critical that it is correctly identified and effectively addressed. 

Symptoms of a language processing difficulty 

The list of symptoms is not necessarily inclusive, nor is any one child expected to have all of them:

1. Problems with retrieval of common words

One of the most frequently reported characteristics is word retrieval problems. The child will often:

  • use neutral, generic and/or non specific labels

  • misuse words with a similar sounding structure

  • generate creative, original language terms, describe and/or circumlocute (talk in a 'round about' or indirect way)


NOTE: The problem is not retrieval if the vocabulary term has not been learned. If the child doesn't have knowledge of the word, then the problem is actually a language acquisition problem.


2. Slow to make a response; use of fillers to 'buy time'

Moving language through the brain cortex for processing until a response can be formulated takes time for children with a language processing deficit. Some children keep the conversation flowing by using words such as 'you know', 'um', 'like' and other 'fillers' to keep their turn in the conversation until they are ready to respond.


3. Frequently says "I don't know" or "I forget"

The normal time it takes for 'question - response' is approximately 2 - 4 seconds., which generally isn't long enough for some children. To reduce anxiety and negative peer pressure, they will often say  "I don't know' or 'I forget''.


4. Verbal repetition or rehearsal

Children will often mumble or talk' to themselves as a compensatory strategy. They are in fact trying to keep the information fresh in their short-term memory until they can attach meaning to it or decode it.


5. Inconsistency in learning and require extensive review of previously learned material

Children with often have difficulty with organising and storing new information into long-term memory for later use. It is therefore often not available for retrieval and use the next day. The content often needs to be taught over and over again or requires extensive review to reach the place they were yesterday.


6. Recognises language errors but can't fix them

When a child with is given feedback regarding an error, they will usually recognise the error but won't know how to correct it.


7. Incomplete sentences or thoughts

Children will often not finish their sentences. They will also give disjointed pieces of information that may have meaning to them, but the context isn't always clear to the listener. The same pattern can occur in written expression.


8. Pragmatic Problems; disruptive behaviour

Disruptive, inappropriate behaviour is a frequent secondary characteristic of language processing deficits. The rules for social interaction are often subtle and revolve around nuances of language and underlying meanings. This can make it difficult for these children to make sense of it. 


Children with broad language processing deficits may also have problems with reading comprehension even when they can decode words accurately. Children with severe language deficits will almost certainly have reading and writing difficulties..

Assessing your child's language processing skills

At Brain & Language Connections our comprehensive assessment of your child's language processing skills helps determine whether or not they have language processing deficits and to what degree the problem exists.

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