Semantic language skills refer to an understanding and appropriate use of meaning in single words, phrases, sentences and even longer units. Semantic language skills include the ability to: understand and state labels, recognize and name categorical labels, understand and use descriptive words (including adjectives and smaller parts of whole items), comprehend and state functions, and recognize words by their definition and define words.
Also included within semantic language skills is knowledge of vocabulary concepts such as synonyms and antonyms. Semantic language at a higher level also includes an understanding of semantic ambiguities in, for example, multiple meaning words and figurative language. Strong semantic language skills are crucial for developing an understanding of the world and an ability to express oneself clearly and meaningfully.
Some children demonstrate broad-based semantic difficulties while others show weakness in more specific areas, such as understanding categorization or providing word definitions. In other cases, children have acquired a large vocabulary but have word finding difficulties and are unable to express words of which they have knowledge. It is similar to having a word on the tip of your tongue but being unable to retrieve/find the word on demand/when needed in conversation. The child with such difficulties may over-use the word stuff or thing. The child may also try to express a spontaneous idea and end up talking around in circles, unable to get the specific idea out.
It is not unusual for children who present with motor speech difficulties such as apraxia to also have concomitant problems with semantic organization of their language and syntax. Specific word finding difficulties (naming difficulties or making odd word choices) may be observed. Language at the phrase and sentence level is also often disorganized in children with disorders of motor speech control (see Syntax for more). Word order may be jumbled, or there are obvious difficulties following the rules of grammar/using correct grammatical forms in their expressive output.
At Children’s Speech and Language Services we thoroughly evaluate semantic language skills in our children having difficulties with word retrieval and/or sharing ideas verbally in order to understand each child’s language strengths and challenges. We carefully plan activities individualized to the needs of each child. For children with concomitant disorders of motor speech control, target words and phrases are developed to both improve motor speech control and build semantic language skills.
By age twelve months, your child should:
By age eighteen months, your child should:
By age twenty-four months, your child should:
By age thirty months, your child should:
By age thirty-six months, your child should:
By age forty-eight months, your child should:
Paul, R (2001). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention 2nd Edition. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby, Inc