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Language and the Adolescent

From: Let's Talk # 33



Source

American Speech- Language- Hearing Association


Contents

Introduction

Language Skills

Language Disorders

Adolescents With Language Disorder

Evaluation

What Can You Do?

Characteristics of Adolescent Language Disorder


Forums

Learning and Other Disabilities


Related Articles

General Information about Speech and Language Disorders

Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior



Introduction

Brian is a 14-year-old who is repeating the seventh grade. Art is his favorite and best subject. In other subjects, he struggles to maintain a C average. His teachers comment about his lack of organization, his difficulty following directions, and his 'class clown' behavior. He never seems to quite fit in with the crowd. His level of frustration is rising along with his truancy rate. Many things may be contributing to Brian's difficulties, including a possible language disorder.

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Language Skills

The ability to read and write is strongly influenced by the ability to understand and use language. Students who are good listeners and speakers tend to become strong readers and writers. Language has a major role in all subjects including reading, math, history, geography, and even art. The early school years emphasize language development, sociaI-emotional growth and readiness skills. The middle grades emphasize specific subjects. Mastery of language is assumed. Emphasis is placed on written skills. The later grades involve more complex use of language by students, including an increased vocabulary, more advanced sentence structure, and different kinds of language for different situations.

The importance of early identification and remediation of language delays or disorders in young children is well known. Less commonly known is the importance of identifying and remediating language disorders in the adolescent. Such disorders may lead to feelings of failure, low self-esteem, poor academic and social success, and a high drop out rate.

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Language Disorders

Language disorder refers to any impairment in

  1. form including phonology, morphology, and syntax, for example, misuse or misunderstanding of the information provided by word endings: "The boy eat his dinner."

  2. semantics (meaning), for example, difficulty understanding idioms: "It's raining cats and dogs."

  3. pragmatics (function), for example, using language for different purposes (promising, requesting), changing language for listener needs (peer vs.teacher), or following the rules of conversation (turn taking, introducing topics of conversation, and staying on the topic).

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Adolescents With Language Disorder

Adolescents identified with language disorders include:

  1. those initially identified through early intervention programs. Although they have received treatment and treatment may have reduced the severity of the problem, some language difficulties persist;

  2. those who received no intervention;

  3. those who had normal language development but experienced a disruption because of some physical, emotional, or traumatic event; and

  4. those who have been identified as having a learning disability.

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Evaluation

A student's understanding and use of language, hearing, thinking abilities, emotional and social skills, desire to interact and communicate with others, central and peripheral nervous system functioning, and type of language models are assessed in order to identify exactly any kind of language disorder that exists and to rule out other causes of the behaviors. The speech-language pathologist works closely with other professionals, such as the school psychologist, to make these decisions.

Intervention techniques may focus on working to improve pragmatic skills and thinking skills. The student will be taught strategies for learning new information and skills.

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What Can You Do?

If you recognize the characteristic behaviors of language disorders in an adolescent or if you have concerns, consult a speech- language pathologist. If you need a referral, call the toll-free HELPLINE (1-800-638-8255) or write to

Consumer Affairs Division,
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association,
10801 Rockville Pike,
Rockville, MD 20852.

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Characteristics of Adolescent Language Disorder

  1. failure to understand or pay attention to rules of conversation, for example, turn taking, introducing topics of conversation, and staying on the topic

  2. difficulty using different language for different needs of the listener or situation
  3. incorrect use of grammar

  4. poor or limited vocabulary

  5. difficulty requesting further information to aid understanding

  6. tendency to ask questions that are too general ("Are you going out tonight?" when what is really meant is "Where are you going tonight?"')

  7. tendency to agree rather than to voice opposition

  8. indirect requests and ambiguous statements

  9. class clown behavior

  10. extreme forgetfulness

  11. withdrawal or exclusion from group activities

  12. difficulty with

    • understanding non-verbal behaviors, such as body language
    • finding words
    • puns, idioms, riddles, jokes, sarcasm and slang
    • instructions, especially those that are long or grammatically complex
    • words with multiple meanings (bear versus bare)
    • sequencing
    • expressing thoughts
    • organizing information.

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