Your child's speech and language abilities help them express themselves, form relationships with others and build self-esteem. When a speech or language delay affects these abilities, speech therapy can help your child develop communication skills and grow their confidence.
Speech and language delays can occur in children for various reasons, and they can affect a child's ability to communicate effectively. A child with a speech or language delay may experience difficulties understanding words and using verbal language to share their needs and feelings, or they may find it difficult to physically form and articulately pronounce the words they want to use.
Understanding and noticing the signs of a speech or language delay is crucial. When you know what to look for, you can seek professional speech therapy services to help your child develop speech and language skills.
The benefits of a speech therapist can help a child improve their communication abilities and increase their belief in themselves. Seeking help with pediatric speech development can make a significant difference in a child's life by encouraging them to develop essential skills. Continue reading to learn some common signs of language delays and how speech therapy can improve your child's quality of life.
What Is a Speech or Language Delay?
Speech and language delays are different, but they often overlap. Language is the act of giving and receiving information, while speech is the ability to express language verbally with proper articulation. A child can have a speech or language delay, but some children may experience both simultaneously.
If a child has a speech delay, they may be able to form words and phrases to express their thoughts and ideas, but they may lack the ability to pronounce them well enough for others to understand. If a child has a language delay, they may pronounce words clearly but cannot put words together and express ideas.
What Causes a Speech or Language Delay?
A child may experience a speech or language delay due to an underlying physical or developmental condition. Some children experience one or both of these delays due to these common causes.
Auditory Processing Disorder or Difficulty Hearing
Difficulty hearing can hinder a child's ability to understand language, use language and speak. Auditory processing disorder makes it difficult for a child to understand the meaning of the sounds their ears send to their brain. Some children can also have a speech or language delay due to difficulty hearing. Chronic ear infections can affect hearing and impede a child's ability to understand, imitate and use language.
Conditions such as apraxia and dysarthria affect parts of the brain that control the muscles used for speaking, resulting in speech delays. These conditions make speech difficult because they hinder a child's coordination of their jaw, tongue and lip movements.
Apraxia prevents the brain from signaling facial muscles and moving the muscles required to speak. Dysarthria causes facial muscle weakness, making the facial muscles unable to control the face, lips and tongue movement needed for speech.
Children on the autism spectrum often experience speech or language delays. Autism can also hinder children's ability to communicate nonverbally, so a child with autism may not be able to use gestures to express their needs. They may also use repetitive words or phrases instead of a variety to communicate, making it challenging for others to understand what they are trying to say.
An intellectual disability can affect language and speech development due to widespread physical, emotional, social and learning developmental delays. A child with an intellectual disability may experience difficulties pronouncing or producing words and phrases that others find easy. They may also need help understanding language or forming sentences.
Signs of a Speech or Language Delay
The hallmarks of a speech or language delay may be challenging to notice, but understanding them can help you reach out for help when your child needs it. You should reach out for support if you notice your child is not reaching the following milestones.
- Paying attention to others: Between the ages of 1 and 4 months, infants should start paying attention to others' faces and responding to the sounds and voices they hear.
- Babbling: Between 4 and 6 months, babies should increase their vocalization and babbling by making vowel sounds.
- Recognizing their name: Between 6 and 9 months, a baby should start turning to look when they hear their name.
- Saying their first word: By around 12 months, most babies say their first word.
- Communicating with gestures: Children should also be able to use gestures such as waving goodbye and pointing to communicate by their first birthday.
- Using vocalization as their primary communication method: By 18 months, children should be using verbal communication more than gestures. One characteristic of a speech delay is when a child prefers gesturing to talking.
- Imitating sounds: By 18 months, a child should be able to mimic some sounds they hear.
- Understanding and following verbal requests: Children should be able to understand and follow simple verbal requests by age 2.
- Producing words and phrases spontaneously: By age 2, children should also be able to say words and phrases on their own, rather than imitating them.
- Using verbal language to communicate: Children should also verbally express their needs and feelings. If they can only communicate by repeating a small handful of words, they may have a speech delay.
Benefits of Working With a Professional Speech Pathologist
Working with a professional speech pathologist helps children improve their language, speech, auditory processing, listening comprehension and social skills. Speech therapy services can help your child develop the following skills:
- Speech production
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Oral motor mobility
- Understanding and expressing language
- Auditory processing
- Using augmentative communication devices
- Social skills
- Feeding and swallowing
Speech therapy can help children develop conversational skills they can use to interact with others, improving their social skills. Children can also learn to notice social cues during conversations so they can self-regulate conversations. In speech therapy, a child can practice and develop clearer articulation, decrease stuttering and learn how to use nonverbal communication skills such as body language.
With speech therapy, your child can work on skills necessary to express feelings, ideas and thoughts. Developing speech and language skills can help them ease anxiety in social situations and increase their confidence.
Learn More About Speech Therapy
A speech or language delay can hinder your child's ability to communicate, interact with others and express their feelings. Speech therapy offers opportunities for children to practice and develop speech and language skills, helping them communicate effectively and increase confidence.
Premier Pediatric Therapy offers various speech therapy services to help children improve their skills, raise their self-esteem and interact with their peers. Contact Premier Pediatric Therapy to learn more about our services and how we can help your child.