Communication skills are those needed to use language: spoken, written, signed, pictographed or otherwise communicated to interact with others. Communication disorders are dysfunctions related to the production of language, speech, sound and word articulation, and deficits related to auditory processing.
Language employs symbols in the form of words, gestures, pictures, or spoken/electronically produced sounds to represent objects and ideas. In neurotypical, normally developing infants, communication of language begins with spoken sounds combined with gestures, relying on two different types of skills. Children first acquire the skills to receive communications, called receptive language, by listening and attaching meaning to what they hear and see in the form of gestures. Next, they begin experimenting with expressing themselves through vocalizing and gesturing (usually, pointing is the first meaningful gesture). Speaking begins as repetitive single sounds, followed by vowel and consonant combinations, typically in repetitive sounds (bababa, mamama, dadada), then syllables, followed by words, phrases, and sentences. Later, children acquire the skills of reading, writing, and mastery of electronic media, the written forms of communication.
Although normative age data may be generally discussed for the development of meaningful communication skills, many children begin speaking much earlier or later than the norm. Experts agree that parents should refrain from attaching too much significance to either deviation from the average. When a child's deviation from the average developmental progression is marked, primary caregivers may choose to seek assessment and early intervention/remediation services.
Spoken language problems are referred to by a number of labels, including language delay, language disability, or a various types of communication disorders. In general, experts distinguish between those people who seem to be slow in developing spoken language (language delay) and those who seem to have difficulty achieving a milestone of spoken language (communication disorders). Communication disorders, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) include language disorder, speech sound disorder, childhood-onset fluency disorder (commonly called stuttering), social (pragmatic) communication disorder, and a variety of other specified and nonspecified disorders, such as articulation disorders involving substituting one sound for another (tandy for candy), omitting a sound (canny for candy), syllabic reversals such as ablieve for believe, or distorting a sound (shlip for sip); and voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch, volume, or quality. Etiology may be related to hearing, nerve/ muscle disorders, head injury, viral diseases, mental retardation, drug abuse, or cleft lip or palate.
See also Aphasia ; Specific language impairment (SLI); Speech perception ; Speech-language pathology .
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