Language Processing Disorders (LPD)

What is a Language Processing disorder?

Imagine traveling to a foreign country without ever having learned the language spoken there.  This is the difficulty experienced by children when they cannot process language.

A language processing disorder (LPD) can be described as having extreme difficulty understanding what you hear and expressing what you want to say.

These disorders affect the area of the brain that controls language processing. Language processing disorders are sometimes called auditory processing disorders.  They are characterized by difficulty understanding and processing what is being heard.  This does not necessarily mean that the child has a hearing loss; rather their brain does not process or interpret auditory information properly.

The auditory nervous system is the pathway that carries sound from the inner ear to the brain for understanding.  This system is continuously developing until approximately twelve years of age.


LPD is a neurological problem, but the exact cause is unknown.  There are currently no conclusive studies that say why the auditory system of one child develops more quickly than it does for another.

How is it diagnosed?

LPD is usually diagnosed with a combination of professionals:

  • Neuropsychologist (assesses cognitive capacity and actual achievement in order to identify the presence of a learning disability, as well as to provide strengths and weaknesses to determine the most beneficial type of therapy)
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Audiologist

Language processing disorders can occur with speech and language difficulties, learning disabilities, attention deficits or developmental disabilities.

What does it look like?

Students with this disorder have difficulty reading, spelling, writing, or even speaking; basically anything having to do with language becomes very difficult for them. There are other skills that are needed to deal with auditory information, and are affected by LPD.  These skills include:  attention, memory, following directions, learning and hearing.

Children with a language processing disorder often have problems in the following areas:

  • following multi-step directions
  • paying attention in noisy environments such as classrooms, loud parties, malls, etc
  • following spoken directions
  • rhyming, spelling, reading, writing (many kids have difficulty with written expression, finding it difficult to formulate thoughts in their head, and then somehow get them down on paper)
  • understanding and participating in conversations with peers and adults
  • vocabulary and sentence structure

 How to help

  • Treatment is based upon each child’s individual needs, but most often focuses on improving listening skills and strategies to help the child be a successful learner at school and in the community.
  • Treatment is best with a team approach; this team may include a speech-language pathologist, audiologist, teacher, and the child’s pediatrician.
  • One-on-one instruction to help with comprehension
  • Use pictures, models, anything visual
  • give directions in small chunks, and get the child’s attention before giving directions (eg., instead of saying “Go get ready, it’s time for school”, say, “Brush your teeth, get your backpack, and put on your coat”)
  • Give simple, direct instructions, and speak clearly when facing the child
  • Allow extra time for processing and understanding information
  • Ask the child to restate what he heard; this allows the speaker to identify errors, and help the child correct them
  • Establish predictable routines, both at home and in school

Helpful websites