What is Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder?

wecreate / August 10, 2022
An Ipad with the words "Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder" on it surrounded by medical equipment and a phone with a picture of the outline of a person

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is a disorder that, as its name implies, affects both receptive and expressive areas of communication. Receptive language refers to the ability to understand language, and expressive language refers to the ability to produce words or complete sentences. Often, the reason some children have developmental delays in articulation or being able to express themselves is their challenges with processing speech sounds or learning the right words to use in context by processing the way others communicate. Children with mixed receptive-expressive language disorder will have difficulty in both of these areas. The effects of this disorder can range from very mild to severe.

In general, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is caused by a developmental issue. However, it can also be caused by seizures, strokes, or traumatic brain injuries. Roughly 2-4% of children at the age of five will have a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder.

It is important to note that children develop at varying rates, and not all children reach the same milestones at the same time. Delayed speech in a young child does not necessarily mean that they have this disorder. Having said that, these are some of the most common signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Difficulty or inability to communicate at the same level as children their age
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Difficulty forming sentences
  • Difficulty with grammar and proper tense
  • Difficulty understanding when people are talking to them


If your child is exhibiting some of these signs, consider speaking with a specialist to get a concrete diagnosis. Our highly trained pediatric speech therapists can help evaluate your child and ensure they get the best treatment.

Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder vs. Autism

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is often confused for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After all, the way that humans communicate affects their ability to socialize. ASD, however, is a developmental disorder that affects abilities related to not only communication skills but also other aspects that are integral to social skills. As it is a spectrum disorder, there are a wide range of symptoms that exist, as well as a range of severities. One of the most common early signs of ASD seen in young children is delayed speech. So naturally, when speech is delayed, children may not engage or find it emotionally frustrating to engage socially and so their behaviors can become challenging.  However, delayed speech doesn’t necessarily mean your child has ASD. For example, people with ASD have more pronounced social issues that include difficulty making eye contact, difficulty understanding facial expressions or body language, a need to follow specific routines, and a lack of interest in other people. ASD often involves other functional problems such as sensory sensitivities, motor coordination issues, significant problems with attention regulation, and often significant problems in behavior management. ASD may present physically, as it can affect motor skills and overall movement, as well as affecting things like sleep and digestion. So while children who have ASD may have mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, the two can occur in children independently.

It’s important to look out for the many signs of ASD, and speak with your doctor or to one of our mental health specialists for assessment ild evaluated and diagnosed correctly.

Speech Therapy with Mind & Motion

Whether your child has mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, ASD, or another condition that is affecting their effective communication skills, the first step of evaluating and diagnosing your child is crucial. As symptoms and challenges vary greatly from one child to another, it’s important to get your child assessed to ensure that their specific needs are being met. Contact us today to see how our team of highly trained developmental mental health, speech, occupational, and physical therapists can work with you and your child.

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