Language Disorders Can Damage Development. (Children Adolescents)

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BOSTON -- Developmental language disorders can wreak havoc on the social development of children and adolescents.

Deficits in the comprehension, production, and/or use of language can lead to self-regulatory problems, self-perception issues, chronic anxiety, and depression, Anthony S. Bashir, Ph.D., reported at a conference on child neurodevelopmental disorders sponsored by Cambridge Hospital.

The challenge of designing appropriate and thorough interventions to fend off potentially devastating social consequences is burdened by the reality that symptoms, manifestations, effects, and severity of language disorders change over time and may persist across an individual's lifetime, said Dr. Bashir of Emerson College, Boston.

Targeted cognitive-behavioral therapy can help remediate social developmental damage caused by language impairments, but only if such therapy is focused broadly enough to encompass the disability's range of guises and is of long enough duration to complete the necessary learning arc, Dr. Bashir said at the meeting, which was cosponsored by Harvard Medical School.

"Language disorders continue to unwrap over time. If we try to fit the disability into a simple, small compartment, as school departments and insurance companies may want us to do, the dots won't be connected," Dr. Bashir said. "We may see a child who can't read, but are we connecting that to the idea that he doesn't know how to produce and use language?

Rather than compartmentalize, therapists and care providers: must develop a broad view of the child or adolescent that takes into account his or her cognitive, executive, linguistic, and processing capabilities and relates them to the child's social and emotional development. This is achieved by asking specific questions. Some of the pertinent questions to be asked include:

* What are the child's current cognitive abilities, such as ways of thinking, perceiving situations, regulating, and processing information?

* How are these related to the nature of the specific developmental language disorder and the child's ability to communicate?

* How do the child's abilities and needs affect performance within various learning and social contexts?

* How does the child behave in different social settings?

* What abilities does the child have that lead to effective social interactions? …