In general, receptive language refers to how one understands language. However, it is a bit more complicated than that!
Receptive language is highly dependent on expressive language vice versa. So, if you haven’t read the expressive language page, please do so!
When discussing receptive language, there are 4 main areas to consider:
The ability to follow directions is just how it sounds. Can a child understand and carry out a direction such as “open the box?”
To be able to follow a direction, a child must know:
There are different types of directions that require a special set of vocabulary understanding:
Many children who have trouble learning language will have a lot of trouble learning these directions words and have to be directly taught them. The reason for this is a whole other page. Stay tuned!
If a child is having trouble following directions, the tricky part is figuring out WHY! The why here is crucial since it will greatly affect a child’s individualized treatment plan.
Let's review a case study:
Understanding questions refers to a child’s ability to answer “WH” questions such as who, where, when, what, what...doing, why, and how. This is a CRUCIAL skill necessary to demonstrate academic knowledge, participate in conversations with teachers/peers, socialize, make friends, etc….
This ability again depends on many foundational language skills such as understanding grammar, vocabulary, and attention.
Let’s paint a picture of a child who has trouble understanding WH questions (the question words). Example 1:
There are simple examples of a very important skill. I hope it paints a better picture of the complicated process of answering questions! If you want more practice at this level with specific, EASY ideas, than Preschool Talk or Toddler Talking might be exactly what you are looking for!
The ability to understand grammatical structures (word and sentence level) is exactly what is sounds like….
From day one of birth (or even before), a child is listening to their native language and learning grammatical forms. For example, at birth, children start to learn nouns and then verbs. As they grow, they start to learn morphology (changes in word endings) such as present (eat), past tense (ate), future (will eat), and present progressive (is eating) verb forms and things progress from there! A child must also understand sentence level grammar (syntax) noun-verb agreement (a child runs NOT a child run), use of pronouns (I can do it by myself), etc…
Many children with any sort of language delay may have trouble with grammar (understanding and speaking).
My NOT RESEARCHED BASED opinion on the matter is ….if children have trouble learning language, so much of their energy is spent on processing incoming messages (content) that they don’t have enough energy left to absorb word and sentence structure. It is simply too much!
What does a delay in grammar comprehension look like?
If a child has trouble understanding grammar, they may have:
How to help:
The ability to understand vocabulary again is just what it sounds like! This is a simple but yet very powerful receptive language skill. Content makes up about 90% (very scientific percentage) of our communication. If we don’t understand words, we can’t follow directions, understand stories, participate in conversations, or express our ideas effectively!
Usually, children will develop receptive vocabulary first before speaking.
Can a child have good expressive vocabulary but poor receptive vocabulary?
Well….yes! A child may repeat words or say “rote phrases” without understanding what he/she is saying.
Another example, think of a child who knows all the words to an adult song. It is funny because this toddler may be singing very inappropriate things but they have NO IDEA what they are saying!
Strong vocabulary skills include the ability to:
These skills will develop over time. There is A LOT you can do to foster these skills. Head over to vocabulary learning and vocabulary games for some ideas. Don't forget to READ to your child everyday as well!