How to Determine If My Child Has a Speech Delay

Children Playing What is a Speech Delay in Children?

Early mastery of speech is an important part of a child’s development. Speech is the verbal expression of language, the ability to communicate with others. This is distinct from language, which includes understanding and being understood in oral and written forms.

A speech delay is a type of pathological communication delay in which a child is capable of using words and phrases to express ideas, but may be difficult to understand. For example, they may have consistent difficulty pronouncing words clearly.

Although all children will encounter some challenges on the road to full speech proficiency, they should be continually developing their skills and comprehension level. By becoming aware of the milestones children should meet, parents can ensure that their child can get the help they need.

How Do Speech Delays in Children Develop?

Speech delays can derive from a wide range of causes. These can range from neurological issues to problems with the teeth or soft palate to comprehension delays deriving from lack of language exposure at home. Hearing problems may also inhibit speech development.

It’s essential to monitor speech development in children as they grow. A great deal of speech processing and acquisition must be achieved before primary schooling even begins. Luckily, it is easy to recognize many of the steps children should go through over time.

Signs of a speech delay in children include:

  • Failure to use gestures like pointing and waving by 12 months of age
  • Preference for gestures over vocal communication by 18 months of age
  • Having trouble imitating sounds by 18 months of age
  • Failure to produce words spontaneously by age 2
  • Failure to communicate in oral language beyond immediate needs by age 2
  • Inability to follow simple oral instructions by age 2
  • Having unusual vocal tone, such as nasal or raspy-sounding, by age 2

In general, parents and caregivers should understand about 50% of a child’s speech by age 2. This should continue to increase to 75% at age 3. By the time a child turns four, he or she should be generally understood by others, including adults and children outside the family.

Treatment Options for Speech Delays in Children

Specific treatment options for pediatric speech delays depend on the underlying problem:

Oral Impairment

Problems with the tongue or palate can sometimes be surgically corrected, leading to improved speech use in daily life. In many cases, speech problems can be completely alleviated. However, the child may need additional help acquiring speech proficiency compared to peers.

Hearing Problems and Ear Infections

Hearing problems should be diagnosed by an audiologist. Children with early onset hearing loss from a variety of sources may benefit from hearing aids. Some children experience chronic ear infections which may subside with appropriate antibiotics or surgery.

Oral-Motor Problems

Oral-motor issues typically have a neurological component and are the most difficult to treat. However, a long-term course of speech therapy may allow children to develop the skills they need to process and articulate speech more easily. Practice is a key factor.

How to Get Rid of Speech Delays in Children

Speech delays may develop for reasons that are outside the control of a parent. However, the  adults responsible for a child’s life can make it easier for them to develop speech skills.

To boost speech acquisition in growing kids, remember to:

  • Spend lots of time talking, singing, and interacting with your child
  • Read to your child, starting with age-appropriate books at infancy
  • Name objects around you during the day to encourage speaking

To find out more, just contact ENT Centers of Excellence today.

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