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Evaluation and treatment of speech and language disorders in children

James Carter, MA, CCC-SLP
Karol Musher, MA, CCC-SLP
Section Editors
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Marilyn Augustyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Developmental language disorder is the most common developmental disability of childhood, occurring in 5 to 10 percent of children [1]. Children learn language in early childhood; later they use language to learn. Children with language disorders are at increased risk for difficulty with reading and written language when they enter school [2-5]. These problems often persist through adolescence or adulthood. Early intervention may prevent the more serious consequences of later learning disabilities. (See "Specific learning disabilities in children: Clinical features".)

Speech and language evaluation in children has three components:

  • To determine whether an impairment in communication skills exists
  • To specify the nature of any impairments
  • To initiate appropriate intervention strategies

The evaluation and treatment of speech and language impairment are reviewed here. The etiology of speech and language impairment and the approach to the young child with expressive language delay are discussed separately. (See "Etiology of speech and language disorders in children" and "Overview of expressive language delay ("late talking") in young children".)


All children with speech impairment should have a complete medical evaluation and formal audiologic testing to detect medical conditions or hearing loss that may contribute to the speech impairment. Parents should be encouraged to follow through with the speech and language evaluation and management recommendations. (See "Hearing impairment in children: Evaluation".)


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Literature review current through: Jan 2017. | This topic last updated: Wed Apr 22 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2015.
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