What are Speech and Language Disorders and Difficulties? Why is it Important to Seek Help?

Page last updated: 13 December 2017

Speech and Language Disorders in Children

Speech and language are important in everyday life and people normally develop these skills naturally from birth and through childhood. However, sometimes a child does not develop speech and language in the expected way or shows difficulties in communicating and learning. When this happens, a child may have a speech or language disorder. Such disorders can disrupt a child’s ability to communicate and learn from others.

Speech and Language Disorders in Adults

Speech and language disorders can develop in adults gradually, but they can also develop suddenly, such as in the case of stroke. Disorders can include the loss of ability to express or understand language, problems making certain sounds or words (for example, slurring) and changes to the rhythm or speed of speech. Disorders can also include problems with swallowing.

What are the Consequences of a Speech or Language Disorder?

Speech and language disorders may reduce the overall quality of life for the person affected. People affected are more likely to have mental illness, learning difficulties, behavioural disorders, and to be socially isolated or unemployed. However, the risks of these disorders can be managed by identifying the speech or language disorder and getting professional clinical support.

Getting Information on Speech and Language Disorders

Speech pathologists have expertise in diagnosing, assessing and treating language, communication and swallowing disorders. They can treat people with difficulties with speech, listening, understanding language, reading, writing, social skills, stuttering and using voice. People who benefit from speech therapy treatment may have developmental delays, or have suffered from a stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and dementia or hearing loss. In addition, speech pathologists can assist those people who have difficulties swallowing food or drink safely.

Speech Pathology Australia is a national organisation that represents and supports Speech Pathologists. You can find information about speech pathology and speech pathology services from their website.

The Better Health Channel, maintained by the Victorian State Government, provides a range of information on speech and language disorders, as well as speech pathology:

Speech pathologists

Speech pathologist service profile

Childhood apraxia of speech

Hearing problems in children

Childhood developmental delay and disability early intervention

Receptive language disorder

Expressive language disorder




Tongue tie

Cleft palate and cleft lip

Effects of stroke

Rehabilitation after stroke

Communication and speech support

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