A Language Difference or A Language Disorder? That Is the Question…Part 1

The last year has brought a lot of change in a lot of areas in our lives. To me one of the biggest changes has to do with the increased awareness of the differences in our lived experiences.

These differences don’t begin and end with life experiences. They extend to the various ways we speak, including differences in the grammar (e.g., “Where you at?” = “Where are you?”) and vocabulary (e.g., doorwall = slider = sliding glass door) to differences in how we pronounce certain words (e.g., in Tennessee, it’s TENN-e-see, not tenn-E-see). These differences even extend into our social use of language, including when we make eye contact with people we don’t know and how children respond to adults.

These differences should be celebrated as part of the things that make life in the United States so wonderful. Unfortunately, all too often, speech-language pathologists may not be aware of the typical differences shown by people who ‘talk differently’ from them.

So, let’s start a conversation. Let’s talk about how to determine whether a child is demonstrating a language difference or a language disorder when the speech-language pathologist and the individuals she serves don’t speak the same ‘language.’

To get the conversation started, let’s start with vocabulary or semantics. In the comments, tell me what you call the following household items:

  1. The ‘thing’ that heats up on the stove top
  2. The ‘thing’ you can take a drink from or fill up your water bottle with in public
  3. The ‘thing’ you push around the store when shopping

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