According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), one may be diagnosed with language disorder if there are difficulties in the attainment and use of language due to comprehension or discourse shortfalls. These deficits can exist in spoken as well as written communication and even sign language.

Criteria Used to Diagnose Language Disorder DSM-5 315.39 (F80-9)

It can sometimes be tricky to determine whether someone has a language disorder, especially during childhood. It’s easy to underestimate a child’s language deficits, as children can be good at using context to assign meaning. The criteria below, determined by the DSM-5 should be used to more successfully make a language disorder diagnosis:

  • The individual has a consistently hard time using language in different manners (speaking, writing, using sign language, or other) due to deficits in understanding or production that include:
    • Reduced vocabulary
    • Limited sentence structure or limited ability to put words together to form basic, grammatically correct sentences
    • Impairments in discourse, for limited ability to use vocabulary and connect sentences or to keep up good conversation
  • The individual’s language capacity is significantly below what is expected at his or her age, which may result in hindered communication, social participation, and academic achievement.
  • The symptoms set in during the individual’s early developmental period.
  • These given difficulties are not result of a sensory impairment, motor dysfunction, or another medical condition, and cannot be attributed to intellectual disability or global developmental delay.

Additionally, two different types of language learning skills should be assessed: expressive and receptive. Expressive ability is all about the production of vocal or verbal signals, while receptive ability refers to receiving and comprehending messages. Both skills should be evaluated to weigh levels in severity.

The Course and Risk of Developing Language Disorder DSM-5 315.39 (F80-9)?

Language disorder surfaces during the early developmental period; however, as previously discussed, it can sometimes be hard to detect these language deficiencies. Fortunately, by the time a child has reached the age of four, the deficits become more noticeable and are more easily measured. If language disorder is indeed diagnosed at this young age of four, it is likely to continue into adulthood and one’s language strengths and deficits will change with age and development.

Are you wondering who may be at a higher risk of developing language disorder? Language disorders often run in families or carry over from one family member to the other—this is due to an individual, even a child, accommodating to their restricted language. So unless it runs in your family, you are at no additional risk of developing language disorder.

Seeking Treatment for the Disorder

There are a few treatment options for those diagnosed with language disorder:

  • Speech and Language Therapy: There are multiple forms of speech therapy including group speech therapy, in-class speech therapy, and individual speech therapy. They each have their own benefits and variations but work to explore and correct speech deficits.
  • Psychological Therapy: If emotional or behavior problems do or may coexist with the language disorder than psychological therapy may help by getting to the root of the issue causing a language deficit.

Differential Diagnosis

It’s important that one follows the criteria described in the DSM-5 before jumping to a language disorder diagnosis—there could be another explanation for the language deficits such as:

  • Normal Developmental Variations: It’s normal for language abilities to differ from child to child at young ages. Just because a 2-year-old isn’t talking as much as the other 2-year-olds you know, that doesn’t mean they have language disorder.
  • Sensory Impairment: Language deficits can be due to a sensory deficit such as a hearing impairment. Only when language deficits are excessive in these instances should a diagnosis of language disorder also be made.
  • Intellectual Disability: Standardized assessments might prove an individual has an intellectual disability rather than a language disorder. Again, a diagnosis of language disorder should not also be made unless language deficits are in excess.
  • Neurological Disorders: Language disorder can be acquired in association with neurological disorders (e.g., epilepsy)
  • Language Regression: The loss of speech and/or language in a child younger than the age of three could be the cause of autism spectrum disorder or a neurological condition.

Could Cartoons Cause Language Deficits in Children? Question and Answer

Cartoons were made to entertain and surely achieve the goal of amusing kids for what can seem like forever. But what makes them so interesting? The picture on the screen certainly holds a child’s attention but so do the distinguishing voices of their favorite characters. Think: Spongebob Squarepants, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Donald Duck, Scooy Doo. Many of these cartoon characters simply have funny voices, but others have articulation issues and could also be considered dysfluent. This leaves some wondering if it’s healthy for their child to watch these shows.

Question: So, do the countless minutes that young kids spend watching and listening to these cartoons affect their own language development?

Answer: It is a possibility. Kids learn from observing others, so their consistent exposure to negative speech patterns could certainly spark speech deficits. Additionally, if a child is interacting solely with a television program for much of the day, they are more likely to rely on it for language lessons and cues.