When we encounter word-based information, while reading or listening to someone talk, our minds must “decode” or quickly recognize the sounds and words we’re taking in. We also must be able to comprehend or make meaning from the way those sounds and words are combined.
People with strong receptive language tend to learn new words quickly. They are usually good at spelling and grammar. They can recognize and understand abstract ideas through metaphors or analogies, and are good at comprehending information they read and hear.
Breakdowns in receptive language may happen at any (or multiple) levels: for example, recognizing word segments and letter combinations, or understanding information that is longer than a sentence. People with challenges in receptive language may struggle with reading or hearing information—or both. They may have trouble recognizing misspelled words or understanding tenses, plurals, and possessive forms of words. They may be confused by words with multiple meanings or by symbolic or figurative language. They may need to have information repeated or summarized in order to understand it.

Strategies for managing challenges with receptive language

  • When you come across words you don’t know, jot them down and look them up. Or use a “Word a Day” calendar to build your vocabulary. 
  • Learn to scan and skim written text, identifying important information by cues in the format. 
  • Try speed-reading lessons to learn to “chunk” sections of what you’re reading. 
  • Practice listening for key “chunks” of information.
  • When you hear a figure of speech or a play on words, create a mental image or cartoon to help you understand it.
  • When listening to someone, check your understanding of key points. Ask questions or try summarizing what you think you’ve just heard.
  • Use an electronic pen that records audio while you write notes. 

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