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Monday, September 13, 2010

TapToTalk, the Partially Verbal Child and Expressive Language Disorder

We market TapToTalk as being for "non-verbal" children. However, this is really shorthand for "non-verbal and partially verbal" children. But what exactly do we mean by "partially verbal?" We mean children who can speak but have an expressive language disorder.

Expressive language disorder occurs when a child cannot express his or her thoughts and desires through speech at the same level as peers of the same intelligence. The child may not have problems pronouncing words, at least no more so than is age-typical. But the child does have problems putting words together in sentences. The child seemingly cannot recall the right word, and grammar and word usage are often incorrect. Vocabulary and the range of thoughts the child can express are more limited than are those of equally intelligent peers. Symptoms may include not properly using pronouns; leaving out verbs or articles; excessively using non-specific nouns and pronouns like "it," "thing" and stuff."

Though they struggle with expressive speech, these children usually can understand speech as well as their equally intelligent peers. They understand much more sophisticated language than they can speak. So a simple rule of thumb is that when comprehension far exceeds expression, you may be dealing with expressive language disorder. But be aware that "comprehension exceeds expression" is typical of all youngsters first learning to talk, and children develop speech at different rates. So if you are concerned about your child's speech development, see a speech professional for an evaluation.

Expressive language disorder may be secondary to another condition like autism, apraxia or cerebral palsy (and there are many others). Or the root cause may be unknown and there may not seem to be any other underlying condition.

Regardless of cause, TapToTalk works great for children with expressive language disorder. The child taps a familiar picture and a proper sentence is played, expressing a complete thought. But TapToTalk is more than a "talker." It is also a coach (and a very patient one at that!). The child communicates better with the help of the AAC device, and at the same time learns to improve expressive speech by imitating the sounds from TapToTalk. Since you can control the pictures used and the sounds played, you can calibrate them to the child's individual progress, increasing the sophistication and range of language and thoughts expressed as the child progresses.

One concern sometimes raised is that AAC may become a crutch and discourage improved verbal communication. The evidence is the opposite. Children who use AAC like TapToTalk make more verbal attempts and improve the quality and quantity of verbalizations.

So let's give all our kids the voice they deserve!

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team
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