Alalia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Have you ever heard of alalia? It is a language disorder that affects speech. Specifically, the alaila implies the partial or total inability to communicate through oral expression.

People who suffer from it usually develop good abilities to express their ideas in writing, since it is usually their only source of communication.

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Alalia: what is it?

Etymologically the word “Alaila” comes from the Greek, and means “dumb”, but it is important to keep in mind that the fact that suffering from alalia does not imply other alterations at the intellectual level or other senses such as the ear . That is why people who suffer from it usually have good skills for written communication.

Here we will see what the alalia consists of, the characteristics of this alteration, the causes that can produce it, and finally the treatments for the alalia.


There are different parameters that may be indicative that a person suffers or may suffer from alalia.

People with alalia are called allylics and are usually children of low ages. The first sign that a person suffers from alalia is if that child does not follow a trend in their development by their age group .

The first words are usually started over 12 months of age. If after a short time of reaching 12 months of age the child does not speak, but nevertheless does not make goodbye gestures or point at objects or people, in principle there is no reason to worry.

Between 15 and 18 months, there is a critical point of suffering a speech delay if they cannot say either the word “mom” or the word “dad”, if they do not interact when they are greeted or dismissed with a “hello “Or a” goodbye “, or if they use numerous gestures during speech. A normal factor of language development to be taken into account would be to have a vocabulary of between 2 and 5 words at 12 months and about 15 words at 18 months .

On the other hand, another sign of speech delay is the inability to produce words and phrases spontaneously between 2 and 4 years of age, as well as the inability to follow simple instructions and orders, as well as when they can do it correctly Connections between words. Finally, another sign of speech delay would be the inability to create simple sentences of 2 or 3 words, in the range of those ages.

It is important to keep in mind that there are characteristics that also prevail in other pathologies and therefore it is important not to err in the diagnosis. Allylic individuals have a similar picture to mental retardation. However, allylic patients are well related, easily oriented and understand mimicry and gestures . Keep in mind that any language pathology can be present in people with normal intelligence but in people with special educational needs.


Delay, deterioration, even loss of language can be caused by a physical break in the mouth area when it is still forming, or just after birth. Consequently, the child may be slow to shape the mouth and tongue to form the words .

However, there are several causes, including some non-physical ones, which can cause alalia:

  • Traumas in the prenatal period (before birth)
  • Perinatal traumas (immediately before or after birth)
  • Poisonings
  • Pathological lengthening of labor time.
  • Difficult deliveries with mechanical help
  • Hearing loss
  • Viral and infectious diseases
  • Brain traumas in the post-natal period (after birth).

Each of these causes together or separately can lead to the appearance of an injury in the central areas of the language , which would lead to the appearance of alalia.

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Types of Alalia

There are two types of alalia. Depending on its origin, it is classified as follows:

1. Alalia motor

The motor alalia is one that is characterized by an affectation of the parietal frontal zone , thus breaking its functions. This leads to a problem of coordination and balance.

This leads to difficulties in understanding words. So finally the allelic people substitute words for similarity of sounds, since they find it difficult to repeat complex words. If left untreated, this can lead to stuttering .

In the milder cases of alalia motor, communication is common through short sentences. In the most severe forms, there is usually only the onomatopoeia in oral communication, accompanied by facial expressions and gestures.

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2. Sensory Alalia

The sensory alalia is somewhat more complex and more serious. Patients who suffer from it do not perceive well or understand speech, so eventually this triggers the inability to speak .

In these cases a specific area of ​​the cerebral cortex is affected, and at this point the patients do not speak because the words are incomprehensible to them.

As a summary, those affected by sensory alalia are unable to associate words with objects, and generally only communicate with facial expressions and gestures. In many cases, these patients are misdiagnosed as deaf people , so it is essential to have an unequivocal diagnosis.


The necessary treatment and therapies depend on the degree of alalia, the cause and the severity. In principle, speech therapy is the most effective and common form of intervention .

On the other hand, there are more specific therapies, aimed at children suffering from alalia due to physical malformations. One of these therapies is called myofunctional therapy (TMP), which focuses on the correction of facial muscle imbalance. These help are usually given by speech therapist specialists.

Other suitable routines would be to read to children on a regular basis, to ask questions in a simple and clear language, as well as to suggest the use of concrete textures in foods to exercise and strengthen the muscles of the jaw, while new movements of the jaw during chewing.

Another suitable guideline is to read the affected patients of alalia , and also ask questions in a simple and clear language. In addition, it is important to suggest the use and introduction of different food textures to exercise and strengthen the jaw muscles, while new movements of the jaw develop during chewing. Finally, another less common technique is to use music as speech therapy and thus promote and facilitate the development of speech and language.

Finally, it should be taken into account that the therapy must be taking into account the nucleus and the family context , so there must be a communication and a joint work with the closest environment of the patient, and thus positively favor the growth of oral language and vocabulary. In any case, the speech therapist’s timely intervention will make the patient’s success and improvement rate higher.


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