Receptive Speech Disorder

What is a Receptive Speech Disorder?

A specific developmental disorder in which the child’s understanding of speech is below the level corresponding to his mental development. Often a defect in phonetic-phonemic analysis and verbal-sound pronunciation. The following terms are used to describe this disorder: aphasia or developmental dysphasia, receptive type (sensory aphasia), verbal deafness, congenital auditory immunity, Wernicke sensory aphasia associated with development.


The frequency of the disorder varies from 3 to 10% in school children. It occurs 2-3 times more often in boys than in girls.

Causes of Receptive Speech Disorder

The cause of this disorder is unknown. There are theories of minimal organic damage to the brain, delayed neuronal development, genetic predisposition, but none of the theories has received final confirmation. Possible neuropsychological mechanisms – disturbances in the area of ​​sound discrimination – the posterior parts of the left temporal region, or impaired differentiation of non-verbal components of speech due to dysfunction of the right hemisphere of the brain. Most children with receptive speech disorder respond better to environmental sounds than to speech sounds.

Symptoms of a Receptive Speech Disorder

The disorder is usually detected at the age of about 4 years. Early signs – inability to respond to familiar names (in the absence of non-verbal cues) from an early age, inability to identify several items by 18 months, inability to follow simple instructions at the age of 2 years. Late violations – inability to understand grammatical structures – denials, comparisons, questions; misunderstanding of the paralinguistic components of speech – tone of voice, gestures, etc. Disturbed perception of prosodic characteristics of speech. The difference between such children in normal imitative speech – “cute speech with an abundance of literal paraphase” – hears something, but reflects words that are close in sound. However, normal use of gestures, normal role-playing games, and attitudes toward parents are characteristic. Compensatory emotional reactions, hyperactivity, inattention, social inability, anxiety, sensitivity and shyness, isolation from peers are frequent. Less frequent are enuresis, a developmental disorder of coordination.

Diagnosis of Receptive Speech Disorder

In case of expressive speech development disorder, understanding (decoding) of speech stimuli remains intact. In cases of articulation disorders, other speech abilities are preserved. Hearing impairment, mental retardation, acquired aphasia, and general developmental disorders should be ruled out.

Receptive Speech Disorder Treatment

The approaches to the management of children with such a pathology are different. There is a point of view about the need to isolate such children with subsequent training in speech skills in the absence of external stimuli. Psychotherapy is often recommended to relieve concomitant emotional and behavioral problems. Family therapy is applicable in order to find the right forms of relationships with the child.