You may hear the terms ‘receptive’ and ‘expressive’ language in relation to children’s speech and language development.
Expressive language is the ability to request objects, make choices, ask and answer questions and describe events, using verbal and non-verbal language, writing and vocalisations. Receptive language refers to the ability to receive and understand spoken language.
Receptive language skills allow children to gain information, decipher that information correctly and effectively communicate with others.
Strong receptive language skills are important for education, as students are given many verbal and written instructions by their educators or teachers each day. For example, a teacher may ask a child to ‘get your hat, find your lunchbox and water-bottle and go outside into the playground’. This common instruction contains three steps:
For a child to complete the instruction, they first need to listen to the information and process what it means, hold this information in their working memory, and then remember the order that they need to complete the steps as they execute the instructions correctly.
That can be a lot of work! So, you can imagine how important it is that children have strong receptive language skills, as this allows them to complete class work, participate in group activities, and understand and follow rules in the classroom.
Children who may have receptive language difficulties may:
It’s important to note that children build their receptive language skills throughout the early years, and depending on their age, may still be learning how to process more complex information. Read our article to learn more about speech and language milestones >
Receptive language difficulties can affect a child’s ability to participate fulling in their learning, can lead to additional attention and listening difficulties, behavioural issues, delays with reading and writing, and challenges with social skills.
There are many simple things you can do day-to-day to support your child’s receptive language skills, particularly if they’re having difficulties.
For more tips and strategies for supporting your child’s speech and language development, check out our range of Fact Sheets.
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