Communication Delays and Disorders

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What are Communication Delays/Disorders

A communication disorder or delay is any impairment that affects one’s ability to receive, process, send and comprehend concepts that are presented using verbal or nonverbal symbols. The primary modalities of communication are:

  • Language
  • Speech
  • Hearing

The Difference Between a Delay and a Disorder

Although these terms are often used interchangeably in the literature, there is a difference in their meaning.


A delay represents a maturational lag in the development of a skill set. For instance when a 4 year old is demonstrating language skills that are typical of a 2 or 3 year old we will call this a delay. Many children who are considered “delayed” often catch up with time and do not require intervention. However, it can be difficult to determine what is a disorder and what is a delay in the early stages of growth and development.


A disorder is a significant delay with some sort of disruption in the normal sequence of development. These children do not catch up with the normal developmental sequence and they often show signs of more significant problems in other areas of development. These children will often show signs of delays in their gross and fine motor skills, emotional development, social skills, and cognitive skills.