When it comes to speech pathology, many people have come across terms like articulation, stuttering, voice hoarseness. And, basic language components like sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar. These are common problem areas encountered by individuals who seek treatment from a speech pathologist. However, sometimes a person’s language can be affected outside of their ability to produce a sentence with the right structure and vocabulary.
Subtle components of language that are sometimes referred to as higher order language, higher level language or executive function can be impaired and are more difficult to diagnose than something as distinct as poor grammar. These individuals often score well on basic language tests, however, they struggle with skills such as reasoning and more in depth explanations and storytelling. A few key areas of high level language include:
Not only does sequencing impairment affect our ability to complete tasks in an organised manner, it can also impact our ability to tell a narrative correctly or give step by step instructions in the correct order. This might present as an individual finding it difficult to tell a story about what they did over the weekend without getting confused. It can also manifest as difficulty designating steps within a project to another person in their team. These subtle skills are all underpinned by the ability to correctly sequence within language.
Cause and Effect
Cause and effect is most simply put, the ability to determine the cause of a particular outcome. Without this skill, an individual would struggle to understand why something has happened in a story because they are unable to understand how an action can lead to a certain outcome. For example, if you did not understand that a sudden impact can cause glass to break, you could not understand how a cat knocking a vase off a table could mean you may need to buy a new vase.
Inference and Predicting
This encompasses our ability to use clues provided through verbal or written context in order to infer further information and make a prediction based on this information. For example, someone might give you an instruction to another person to ‘turn your headlights on due to poor conditions’. From this information, we can predict that the person is driving as headlights are typically found in a car. We can also predict that there is low lighting, which is why the instruction to turn on their headlights was given. Although none of this information is explicitly stated, we need to be able to make these connections in order to make sense of what is happening if no further information is given.
This refers to language that is not literal. It can include things like idioms, metaphors and similes, which do not directly convey meaning in a concrete way and are more abstract in nature. This can make understanding jokes and humour difficult. It can also make high school and adult level reading material much more difficult to understand.
If you or a family member has difficulties within these areas, an assessment by a qualified Speech Pathologist is the first step to addressing these impairments and getting the proper treatment to address them in order to communicate more effectively.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.