Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

November 15, 2016

Breaking Down Language: Part 2

By: Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP
  • We have already discussed expressive language and now it’s time for receptive language.
  • Receptive language is easily described as how a person listens to another person or how you respond to words.
  • As receptive language builds, we expect children to be able to listen to things that are said to them, but also to demonstrate the things they know.

When we first learn to listen as babies we use our eyes and ears together to watch and observe people and objects in our environment. A baby may indicate they are hearing a voice or noise by crying, kicking their legs, looking around, or calming down. Eventually around 6-8 months of age babies start to make connections between sounds, words, people, and actions. For example, you may be able to say, “Where’s mama?” and your child will search the room with his or her eyes to find her. Environmental sounds may be some of the first sounds a child begins to recognize such as a dog barking or an airplane flying by.

Children start to make connections between words and objects and use their body to tell you they understand. This is around the same time they may begin moving much more, possibly even starting to walk. They may be able to follow simple directions like “come here” or “give me the ball” by 1 year old. You might also be able to ask your child to identify familiar objects like ball, mom, or shoes. Children have many ways to tell you what they know. They may point to objects when you name them, look in the direction of the object, or retrieve it to give it to someone.

These skills then expand further by 2 years of age and a child is easily following more complex directions such as “take a drink of your juice” or “wipe your face with your napkin”. Children also will be able to identify many things like pointing to their body parts or finding pictures when named in books. Remember, this does not mean they will have all the words for the things they know. We expect for a child to be able to identify many objects before they attempt to say the word to identify them.

Keep in mind each child learns differently and if your child is learning more than one language they may show some differences. Stay tuned for some quick tips and tricks for building receptive language in the next post!

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