Consider The Gap

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We need to consider any gap between what a person can understand and what they can say. Receptive communication is what you can understand. Expressive communication is what you can say. Any gap is an expressive/receptive gap.

To review, receptive communication describes what someone is able to understand. Most of us understand more than we can say. We can show this by following directions or looking at what is being talked about. Expressive communication describes what we can say, or communicate with others. We might express ourselves by speaking. We might also write, or use sign language.

Is there a gap between what a person can say and what that same person can understand? People with complex communication needs often understand more than they can say. Sometimes a lot more.

The bigger the gap, the more important it is that we consider a more robust way to express.


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This little girl has an appropriate and typical receptive/expressive gap for her age.

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Communication Patterns

Individuals with ID and associated language and communication disorders may demonstrate signs and symptoms of spoken and written language disorders across the domains of phonology, morphology and syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. See spoken language disorders and written language disorders (currently under development) for information related to language comprehension and production, multiple modes of communication (e.g., AAC), and behavioral difficulties as well as social and emotional problems experienced by individuals with language disorders.

Individuals with ID are a heterogeneous group; communication abilities vary and may be nonsymbolic (e.g., gestures, vocalizations, problem behaviors) and/or symbolic (e.g., words, signs, pictures). See Communication Characteristics: Selected Populations With an Intellectual Disability for examples of typical communication patterns of individuals with ASD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome, all of which most commonly co-occur with ID.

Extracted from: ASHA