Language is the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings. It is a person’s ability to understand what is said around them and their awareness of their environment (receptive language), as well as their ability to communicate with the people around them (expressive language). Expressive language relates not only to spoken language but other means of expressive language including signs, symbols and high-tech communication aids. It is the ability of an individual to express themselves effectively and meaningfully through single words, short phrases, and sentences.
Children with language difficulties may present with either delayed or disordered development and this may present in isolation or alongside other contributing factors or diagnosis.
Language delay: a pattern of development typical in a younger child.
Language disorder: an atypical pattern of development which is not following the usual pattern or sequence expected.
To be able to learn language children first needs to be able to attend and listening to stimuli in their environment and develop play and interaction skills to enable them to learn from others. Receptive language develops prior to expressive language; children must first understand the language used in their environment to be able to use it to communicate with others. See the communication pyramid below illustrating the skills which emerge and develop first to enable others to be built upon them.