Language is our ability to use and understand different words and sentences to communicate. These areas are called our expressive and receptive language. Language is our ability to explain and retell a story with a main idea and a sequence of events. Language also has an aspect referring to social language. Social language is following the “rules” about when and how you should talk to people; taking turns when you talk, initiating a topic and maintaining that topic, changing our message based on the listener’s knowledge, body language, and proximity.
Expressive language, story-telling, receptive language, and social language require us to plan, organize, attend, and self-regulate.
The executive functioning area of the brain controls planning, organizing, attention, and self-regulation. Executive functioning is impaired in those with ADHD. Let’s take a look at the language areas closer and begin to think about what YOU can do to make interactions more comfortable with a child having attentional difficulties.
In order to understand a message you must use your memory, knowledge of word and sentence structures, and incorporate your experiences, what you know, and the context. Add in noise, figurative language, or a joke and it increases the demands. What if the story someone is sharing becomes too long? Then add different speakers in a group. It’s no wonder those with ADHD miss the details in conversation, which can be vital bits of information. Think about what that looks like…oppositional behaviour. Keep in mind we are talking about understanding of a spoken message, but the same applies to a written message (reading comprehension).
You have the power to support your child’s understanding of a message.
In order for us to talk we must organize and plan our thoughts to retrieve words quickly and compose sentences with correct word order and grammar. Those with ADHD may end up pausing more in mid-sentence or producing rambling stories, because they have difficulty sequencing their thoughts. You might hear a change of topic in the middle of the conversation due to distractibility. Your child might interrupt you due to impulsivity. Even for those with advanced vocabularies and understanding, social language difficulties may get in the way of social success. Adults and peers may become impatience or misunderstand a message.
You have the power to support your child’s ability to communicate.
WRITTEN BY ANGIE REEDER, SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST AND DIRECTOR WITH WILDFLOWERS