Trouble With Expressive Language: What You’re Seeing

Kids who have trouble with expressive language may struggle with conversation. They may understand what others say and be able to pronounce words. But they may still struggle to express themselves.

Here are signs that kids are having difficulty with expressive language.

Speaks Vaguely

  • At home: Your child uses the words “stuff” and “things” a lot.
  • At school: Your child often answers questions in class by repeating the teacher’s words.
  • The issue: Kids who struggle with expressive language often have below-average vocabulary skills and rely on familiar phrases.

Is Very Quiet

  • At home: Your child doesn’t chat much with friends.
  • At school: Your child rarely raises a hand or speaks up in class.
  • The issue: Kids who struggle with expressive language can be withdrawn because it’s so difficult for them to express their thoughts and feelings.

Is Hard to Understand

  • At home: Your child hangs on every word of a book you read out loud, but can’t talk coherently about it.
  • At school: Your child makes frequent errors when speaking, like leaving out pronouns or verbs.
  • The issue: Kids who struggle with expressive language tend to jumble tenses and drop words. Their sentences often don’t make sense.

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.