Language Delay and Impairment

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What to expect

Language Delay and Impairment

Language delay and impairment are a delay and impairment to the normal development of language.

What is language delay and impairment?

Language delay is when language develops in the normal pattern of development but at a slower rate.

Language impairment is where language is severely behind the typical population, and may not follow the normal pattern of development.

Language delay and / impairment is usually present in childhood and can continue to affect an individual communicative ability throughout their life.

Common characteristics of language delay and impairment can include:

  • Delayed language compared to the normal development.
  • Absence or late development of babbling.
  • Failure to develop the one word stage at the typical age.
  • Difficulty putting two words together at the typical age.
  • Failure to express your wants and needs.
  • Failure to understand or carry out instructions.
  • Difficulty with understanding or using grammar correctly.
  • Limited vocabulary.
  • Difficulty with syntax (putting words together to form sentences)
  • Limited expressive (verbal and written) or receptive (understanding) communication or a combination of both.

What conditions can cause language delay and impairment?

There are many conditions which can cause language delay and / impairment. Conditions in children and adults which may cause language delay or impairment include:


  • Neurological problems
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Speech disorders
  • Learning difficulties
  • Down syndrome
  • Hearing loss or impairment
  • Language delay
  • Communication problems
  • Bilingualism
  • Auditory processing disorder
  • Fetal anti-convulsant syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Sensory integration dysfunction
  • Selective mutism
  • Learning difficulties


  • Neurological problems
  • Hearing loss and impairments
  • Communication problems
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Learning difficulties
  • Mental health problems

How are language delay and impairment diagnosed?

Language delay and / impairment are diagnosed by a speech and language therapist. The speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment to assess if an individual has language delay and / impairment. This assessment will determine the severity of the language delay and / impairment and will also help in deciding what the best form of treatment will be for the individual.

How can speech and language therapy help with language delay and impairment?

Speech and language therapy can be very beneficial for individuals with language delay and / impairment. The main aim of speech and language therapy for an individual with language delay and / impairment is to maximise their communicative ability.

The speech and language therapist will work closely with the individual and also the individual's family in ensuring the individual gains the best outcome regarding their speech, language and communication needs.

Speech and language therapy will be individualised for each client and will consider factors such as their current and past communication abilities and also the underlying condition causing their language delay and / impairment.

What speech and language therapy treatment can benefit language delay and / impairment?

There are many different types of speech and language therapy which can help and support an individual with language delay and / impairment.

Each individual with language delay and / impairment will receive an individualised treatment plan. This treatment plan will be specifically tailored to the individual's speech, language and communication needs and will consider many factors, including the individual's underlying cause of their language delay and / impairment.

Types of speech and language therapy treatments that are available for individuals with language delay and / impairment can include:

One to one therapy

One to one therapy will involve the therapist and the individual (and their carer or parent). One to one therapy will work on specific areas of communication the individual is finding difficult and also areas they feel are a priority to work on in therapy. For an individual with comprehension problems, the therapist may work on increasing the individual's understanding of spoken and written words, sentences and also conversation and paragraphs.

Find out more about one to one therapy.

Group therapy

Group therapy will usually involve a group of individuals with similar communicative abilities. Group therapy can help in increasing the individual's motivation, social skills and also help to generalise the skills learnt in one to one therapy. Parent and carer groups may also be carried out to help support the parents and carers in supporting the individual's comprehension problems.

Find out more about group therapy.

Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Alternative and augmentative forms of communication may also be used for individuals with very limited and restricted understanding. Alternative forms of communication will help to support an individual's understanding and help them to communicate to the best of their ability. Alternative forms of communication may include visual aids, sign language and also computer aids.

Find out more about Alternative and Augmentative Communication.

Speech and language therapy may also include the following:

  • Assessments
  • School visits
  • Clinic visits
  • Home visits
  • Reports
  • Review
  • Early intervention

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

To arrange an initial assessment with one of our speech and language therapists then please contact us on 0330 0885 643.


A comprehension problem is a difficulty in understanding verbal, non-verbal and written forms of communication. An individual with a comprehension problem will have difficulty in communicating effectively with others. The speech and language therapist will aim to increase the individual's understanding and maximising their communicative ability. If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy, then please contact us by emailing or calling 0330 0885 643.

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Next steps

To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email


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All our speech and language therapists are registered with the RCSLT and the HCPC

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