Understanding Children with Language Problems

Understanding Children with Language Problems

Understanding Children with Language Problems

Understanding Children with Language Problems


Some children can hear and can speak, yet have trouble understanding or producing utterances. In this accessible introduction to the study of children's language difficulties, Shula Chiat explores the stumbling blocks that lie behind their struggle. The uniqueness of this book lies in its focus on individual children, the extensive and intriguing examples that illustrate their problems, and the step-by-step search for the source of those problems. This book will be welcomed by students of linguistics, language development and language disorders; teachers of language-impaired children; and speech and language therapists.


Some children can't um — can't even um — they can't even talk or anything like that and they can't talk properly. And they get trouble by talking and um — things like that.

Ian, aged 9

Ruth: My mum and dad — dan me. And my brothers.

Adult: Your mum and dad —?

Ruth: My daddy and mum — h — they sidan me.

Adult: They send you?

Ruth: No dand me. Beechin.

Adult: What do they do?

Ruth: Nothing!!

This exchange took place between 10-year-old Ruth and myself. After a precarious start, it appears to have come to a dead-end. But with a bit of encouragement, Ruth starts again, slowly, weighing her words:

Ruth: My mum and daddy, those two — those stand me.

Adult: Understand?

Ruth: Yes!!

Adult: They understand you?

Ruth: Yeah.

We've arrived.

Our struggle over words speaks volumes. Ruth has initiated the conversation. She is quite definite about what she wants to communicate. Behind her eventually clear assertion that her family understand her lies her implicit recognition that other people don't. I prove her point with my persistent failure to understand that key word 'understand'. Ruth is ready to give up. It is just too hard to get her understanding understood.

Damian is 21, and describes himself as 'dysphasic'. He, too, can have difficulty getting his message across. He explains how he deals with this situation:

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