Receptive language refers to how one understands language. However, it is a bit more complicated than that!
Receptive language highly depends on expressive language, 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 follow a direction, a child must know:
There are different directions that require a special set of vocabulary understanding:
Many children who have trouble learning language will have trouble learning these directions words and have to be taught them.
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.
Example 1: a child who has trouble understanding WH questions (the question words)
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
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 birth (or even before), a child is listening to his/her native language and learning grammatical forms. For example, at birth, children learn nouns and verbs. As they grow, they 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 a language delay may have trouble with grammar (understanding and speaking).
My clinical-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 rules. 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 a large portion of our communication. If we don’t understand words, we can’t follow directions, understand stories, participate in conversations, or express our ideas effectively!
Can a child have good expressive vocabulary but poor receptive vocabulary?
Yes! A child may repeat words or say “rote phrases” without understanding what he/she is saying.
Another example, think of children who know all the words to an adult song. It is funny because these toddlers sing very inappropriate things but they have NO IDEA what they are saying!
Strong vocabulary skills include the ability to:
How to Help:
There is A LOT you can do to foster these skills. Check out: