What is the difference between “Language Delay” and “Language Disorder”?

Many young children develop language skills at the right time, but some children experience issues with speech and language development. There are many terms used by professionals in describing children who have difficulties using language. Some of the terms used are language disorder, developmental language disorder, language impairment, language delay or disorder.

Is there a difference between Language Delay and Language Disorder?

The term “language delay” is used when a child’s language is developing following the usual pattern and sequence but is slower than other children of his/her age like for example, a child may be 4 years of age, but understanding or using language typical of a child who may be only 2.5 years of age. “Language disorder” is used to describe language development which is not following the usual pattern or sequence. This means a child is not developing language as one would expect or abnormally.


  1. Hearing impairment: Children who have a hearing impairment can have language impairment also. If they can’t hear the language, learning to communicate can be difficult.
  2. Autism: Autism can affect communication in children and can cause language delay.
  3. Intellectual disability: A variety of intellectual disabilities like dyslexia can cause language delays.
  4. Psychosocial issues: Severe neglect can lead to problems with language delays and development as well.

Who can help in such cases?

The speech-language pathologist (SLP) provides assessment, diagnosis, and intervention for children with language delay or disorder. The SLP can identify areas of strength and creates a treatment plan to help the child develop the listening and speaking skills to allow him or her to communicate more effectively.

Read this article to understand if your Child’s Speech and Language Development is on Track.

Is your Child’s Speech and Language Development on Track?


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