Guest Post: How To Explain Communication Difficulties to Children

Updated: Feb 7, 2019

Here at Children In Motion, not only do we get to work with some amazing families, but we also get to work with some pretty awesome professionals. One of which is Saren Schapiro the founder of SAGE Speech & Learning Associates. Saren is a licensed Speech & Language Pathologist located in the Sandy Springs area focusing on pediatric therapy. She has such a collaborative spirit and I'm excited to feature her as a guest blogger. When she's not in the office, you can find her enjoying time with her two young girls. Saren is online at or on SAGE Speech & Learning Associate's Facebook and Instagram. Enjoy and make sure you leave her some love in the comments!

Being a Mom isn’t easy. Especially when we worry about our children and their development and educational growth. In a recent interview, I asked Saren how she explains communication and language impairments to her own children. Understandably, it is always harder to view your own children from a professional perspective versus their parent. For this reason, I was excited when and she told me this great anecdote she used to explain language development to her children. In her own words:

We have buckets in our brain.

Over the course of many, many snow days these past winter months, my kids overheard several of my strange work conversations. One that stood out to my six-year-old involved buckets…in our brains!! At bedtime one night, she asked me “Mommy, how do buckets get in our brains?”

Well, let me paint a picture for you!

When I am explaining vocabulary, language, and retrieval to parents of children with language impairments, I often make this simplified visual for them. Our brains may contain “buckets” for categories such as animals (farm, ocean, pets, wild, jungle, etc) or Foods (vegetable, fruit, meat, drinks, etc). When a word is learned, we place it into the correct “bucket.” When we need to retrieve that word, we go to the appropriate bucket, pull it out, and say it! It seems so easy.

But, for children with receptive and expressive language impairments, parts of this learning, memory and retrieval process can breakdown. If their input system is not placing the new word into the correct bucket, if it is falling out of a bucket, or is straddling two buckets, the child often will have trouble retrieving that word quickly and/or accurately. Often children who have this difficulty will be described as having a “mixed receptive/expressive language disorder.”

Sometimes, parents will tell me that they KNOW their child knows this word. Or they KNOW their child has a strong understanding of language, but they just aren’t showing it! Or they only speak in 1-2 word phrases and not long sentences yet. Many professionals believe that an expressive language delay cannot exist without a receptive delay. Many times, these children DO show delays in understanding on standardized tests, despite reports of understanding their surroundings.

Our job as speech language pathologists is to find the best way for each child to learn, store and retrieve the words and ideas they are exposed to. From that point, we then seek to help those children express their words and ideas quickly and effectively!

The team of speech, language and feeding professionals at SAGE Speech & Learning specializes in language and processing impairments. If you are interested in a FREE phone consultation, please call 404.245.7981 to speak with Saren regarding your child. Or visit our website at to learn about FREE screenings, in-home therapy and more!

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5655 Peachtree Parkway Norcross, GA 30092 Suite 117

photography by Lydia Chang