A young girl holding her toy bunny, a typical scenario in addressing mixed receptive expressive language disorder.

Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder: How Speech Therapy Can Help

Reviewed by Dr. Joyce Richardson, PhD.

Has your child been struggling with communication and language skills? They may be facing a condition known as a mixed receptive expressive language disorder.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Understanding this condition can help parents, educators, and healthcare professionals provide the necessary support and intervention to improve language skills and enhance overall communication abilities.

What Is a Receptive Language Disorder?

Receptive language disorder is a condition that affects a person’s ability to understand spoken language and interpret verbal information. It is a specific type of language disability that can impact a person’s communication skills and overall cognitive development.

Children with receptive language disorder may have difficulty:

  • Processing and comprehending verbal instructions.
  • Following conversations.
  • Understanding the meaning of words and phrases.
  • Grasping the nuances of language, such as sarcasm, humor, or idiomatic expressions.

What Is an Expressive Language Disorder?

Expressive language disorder is a condition in which a person has difficulty expressing themselves through spoken or written language.

This can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • Limited vocabulary.
  • Difficulty forming grammatically correct sentences.
  • Trouble organizing thoughts coherently.
  • Struggling to participate in conversations, express their thoughts and feelings, or convey information effectively.

A Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder Is Both of These

Three toddlers engaging with large, lego-style toys, an activity beneficial in therapy for mixed receptive expressive language disorder.

A mixed receptive-expressive language disorder affects both the ability to understand language and the ability to use language to express thoughts and ideas.

This condition occurs in 10 to 15% of children under the age of 3 and can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

Children with mixed receptive-expressive language disorder may have difficulty:

  • Understanding spoken or written language.
  • Expressing themselves through speech or writing.
  • Understanding and following instructions.
  • Organizing their thoughts and ideas.
  • Using proper grammar and vocabulary.

This difficulty with language can make it hard for children to talk and understand others well, affecting their daily lives a lot. It can be tough in both personal and school situations, causing problems with making friends, doing well in school, and doing regular things every day.

Adults with this disorder may find it difficult to express themselves in professional, social, or personal settings, leading to frustration and feelings of isolation.

This is why parents, caregivers, and educators need to be aware of the signs and symptoms, so that affected children can receive the support and intervention they need to thrive.

With proper support and intervention, children with mixed receptive-expressive language disorder can learn to effectively navigate the challenges associated with this condition and improve their overall quality of life.

What Causes Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder?

The exact cause of mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is not fully understood. It is not always caused by a single factor, but rather a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental influences.

Research has shown that some children are born with a genetic predisposition to language disorders, making it more difficult for them to learn and use language properly.

In other cases, language delays can be caused by environmental factors such as neglect, abuse, or lack of exposure to language during early childhood.

In addition, neurological conditions such as autism or Down syndrome can also contribute to language delays, as these conditions affect the brain’s ability to process and understand language.

Early identification and intervention are crucial for children with language disorders or delays, as they can greatly benefit from speech therapy and other interventions to help them develop their language skills.

Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder Symptoms

A boy appearing bored while playing with squares, highlighting the challenges faced in mixed receptive expressive language disorder.

Diagnosing mixed receptive-expressive language disorder typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist, who will assess the child’s language skills and abilities.

Several symptoms are associated with this condition, and it is important to be aware of these signs to seek help and support for children who may be struggling with this condition.

  • Difficulty understanding and processing language: Children may have trouble following conversations, understanding instructions, or comprehending spoken language in general.
  • Difficulty expressing oneself through spoken language: Children with this disorder may struggle to form sentences, use proper grammar, or find the right words to express their thoughts and ideas.
  • Difficulties with reading and writing: They may struggle to understand written material, have trouble spelling, or have difficulty expressing themselves through written language.

Symptoms of mixed receptive-expressive language disorder can vary from person to person, and children may show a combination of these symptoms to varying degrees. It is also important to note that the severity of the symptoms can also vary, with some experiencing mild difficulties and others experiencing more significant challenges.

Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder vs. Autism

While Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder and Autism may share some similarities because they are two conditions that can affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, there are also distinct differences between the two.

Kids with Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder may struggle with comprehension, expressive language, and speech sound production. They may have difficulty understanding spoken and written language, following directions, and expressing their thoughts and ideas through speech. However, their social and behavioral skills are typically in the normal range.

On the other hand, Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction, as well as causing repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Children with Autism may have difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and imaginative play. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors such as hand-flapping, rocking, and intense focus on specific objects or topics.

Additionally, the causes of both conditions differ. The first is often linked to a specific language impairment or delay in development, while Autism is believed to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

Despite their differences, Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder and Autism can co-occur in some cases, making it important for children to receive a comprehensive evaluation that addresses both language and social communication skills.

Speech Therapy Treatment For Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder

A girl practicing speech exercises with a therapist, a key intervention for mixed receptive expressive language disorder.

Early intervention is key in managing mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, as it can significantly improve the child’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

When it comes to expressive language difficulties, speech therapy aims to improve the child’s ability to use language to communicate effectively. This can involve working on vocabulary development, sentence structure, and the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly.

This may involve activities like:

  • Storytelling: Creating and telling stories, focusing on using proper grammar, vocabulary, and sequencing.
  • Role-Playing: Engaging in scenarios like ordering food at a restaurant or participating in a pretend play.
  • Picture Cards: Children create sentences or short stories based on the images.
  • Listening Activities: Like following verbal instructions or answering questions related to a spoken passage.
  • Vocabulary Building Games: Like word associations, synonym/antonym matching, or vocabulary bingo.
  • Categorization Games: Sorting objects or words into categories, promoting organization, and enhancing vocabulary.
  • Articulation Exercises: Activities that focus on improving speech sound production and clarity.
  • Rhyming Activities: Exploring rhyming words and creating rhymes to enhance phonological awareness and language skills.

Speech therapists may also work with the child’s family and caregivers to provide strategies and support for effectively communicating with the child in daily activities and interactions.

The effectiveness of speech therapy for mixed receptive-expressive language disorder can vary depending on the child’s specific needs and challenges. However, with consistent and targeted intervention, many children can make significant improvements in their language skills and communication abilities.

A little girl reading a story with her grandma, demonstrating supportive family involvement.


If you’ve noticed signs or symptoms in your child, taking action now is key to making meaningful improvements. Look for a qualified speech therapist who can develop a personalized treatment plan to address your child’s specific needs and help them achieve their communication goals.

At Virtual Speech Therapy LLC., our therapists have over 50 years of experience helping people with speech and language disorders.

Contact us today to set up a consultation.