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What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

Signs of Speech Delay: What You Can Do As Parents

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Does your child have difficulty expressing their thoughts clearly due to speech delay? Do they show signs of delayed speech compared to other kids of the same age? If your answer is YES, here are some language development tips to address the issue.

How do you know if your child is a late talker or has a language problem? As parents, we worry a lot when our kids don’t seem to be developing at the same pace as their peers. That is perfectly normal.

But before you jump to worrisome conclusions, it would be helpful to keep in mind that some 8-9% of preschoolers suffer from some form of speech and language development-related challenge despite being exposed to language at an early age.

Some children face only minor language challenges that can be addressed at home, while others may require professional help and guidance. Whatever the case, it is good to keep in mind that your child is not a hopeless case and that speech and language development is not a race.

A child usually understands what she hears before she uses words. This is receptive language. Your child may be able to point to objects when you name them and follow simple directions.

If your child seems to understand well for her age, she is more likely to catch up with her language. If you think she does not understand what others say, she may have a language delay.

So if your child is currently struggling with speech delay, you need to know what you can do to help them overcome this challenge.

In this article, we will consider the following:

  • Some factors that cause speech delay
  • How to help your child deal with speech delay

What causes speech delay in children?

Various factors can cause a delay in a child’s speaking abilities. But just because a child is a late talker doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a language development problem. Other children just need more time to catch up on this development aspect.

Still, it is good to pay attention to your child’s speech and language development, as this can indicate their physical and intellectual development as a whole.

Here are some developmental problems that may impact a child’s speech and language delay.

Mouth problems

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

Some children may have problems pronouncing certain letters and words because they have a developmental issue with their mouth, tongue, or palate.

In some cases, children may suffer from a tongue-tie (also known as ankyloglossia), or their tongue may be connected to the floor of their mouths, making it difficult or them to pronounce the following sounds clearly:

/d/ /l/ /r/ /s/ /t/ /z/ /th/

This problem can be detected as early as infancy since children who have tongue-tie will often have a hard time breastfeeding.

Speech and language development disorders

In other cases, the problem does not lie in a child’s physical makeup but in their ability to put their thoughts into spoken words.

For example, some preschoolers can comprehend what other people are saying and their nonverbal cues, but they can’t find the words, or they struggle to phrase their thoughts in a way that is understandable to others.

In this case, the language development problem lies in the child’s learning ability, which is most common among those born prematurely.

Children’s speech and language development may also be related to another common disorder called childhood apraxia. This physical disorder makes it difficult for a child to form sounds in the correct order as they pronounce words.

While serious, this disorder does not affect their ability to comprehend language and nonverbal communication.

Hearing problems

Children who have trouble hearing will have a hard time producing the right sounds when they try to speak. This is because what they hear is largely distorted speech and language, leading to them having a hard time forming words.

This can be quite difficult to identify at an early age, but if your child doesn’t acknowledge a person or thing unless you introduce it to them using gestures, they most likely have trouble hearing.

In other cases, hearing loss may be difficult to detect, and the only sign would be speech and language delay in your child. These kids can improve with speech and language therapy.

Lack of stimulation

A child who has never been engaged in a conversation before or rarely engages in one will definitely have difficulty expressing themselves correctly. This is why children of speaking age must be in an environment that allows them to practice their speaking skills.

Therefore, language development problems are common among children who are victims of abuse and neglect since they lack the stimulation needed for them to start communicating with other people.

Autism

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

Children on the autism spectrum may also show signs of speech and language delays. Other speech-related disorders common to children on this spectrum include:

  •  Echolalia (or repeating rather than creating phrases)
  •  Difficulty in both verbal and non-verbal expression
  •  Regression in their speech and language skills
  • Difficulty in social interaction

Neurological problems

Speech delays and language development difficulties can also be caused by neurological problems that affect a person’s muscles for speech. This is true for individuals suffering from the following neurological disorders:

  •   Cerebral palsy
  •   Traumatic brain injury
  •   Muscular dystrophy

Children with cerebral palsy may exhibit additional problems such as hearing loss and other developmental disabilities.

Intellectual disabilities

If your child cannot speak, it could also be because they are intellectually unable to form words.

How to help your child deal with speech and language delays

As the parent, you’ll be able to immediately tell when something is wrong with your child’s speech development, even before anyone else. If you think something is wrong and you’re worried that your child is not developing at the right place, trust your instincts, and then take action. If you are concerned about your child’s language development, you should talk to your speech-language pathologist.

Generally speaking, children should be able to use more than 10 words by 18 months of age. At 2 years of age, your child should be able to use more or less 80 words. So if your child’s speech development is delayed by these standards, what can you do to help?

Here are five ways to encourage speech development at home: You don’t have to do all five things every day, but try using these strategies a few times per day or per week as practice.

Tip # 1: Self-Talk

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

Set aside time each day or week to talk to your child in short but clear sentences or phrases. It can be about anything you can think of. You can try describing an object you’re holding, an action you’re doing, or something you’re hearing.

It’s okay to repeat the same words to your child. The more you repeat those words, the better they will remember, and hopefully mimic, them.

The SLP also will check: what your child understands (called receptive language), what your child can say (called expressive language), sound development, and clarity of speech your child’s oral language status (how the mouth, tongue, palate, etc., work together for speech as well as eating and swallowing) Based on the test results, the speech-language pathologist might recommend speech therapy for your child.

Tip # 2: Use sign language

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

With the same tip mentioned above, you can work on incorporating sign language as well. This is also a great way for your child to start communicating their thoughts in nonverbal ways, especially for late talkers.

If your child shows signs of a problem, the SLP may suggest that you talk to an early intervention program. This program can work with you to find ways to help your child communicate better. They can also help if you have any other concerns about your child’s development.

So try to use basic sign language skills as you talk to them, encouraging them to follow your lead as the days progress. Soon, they’ll be able to do the signs themselves and hopefully transition to the use of spoken words in time.

Tip # 3: Use parallel talk

Think of this strategy as something similar to self-talk. This time, however, you won’t be talking about what you’re doing. Instead, you will be talking about what your child is doing, or what your child is holding, or how your child is feeling, etc. At this point, continue using short sentences and phrases so that your child can easily follow after you.

Tip # 4: Expansions

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

This strategy will be based on your child’s speech or gestures. What you want to do is add another word to whatever word your child may use or say. For example, if your child says “milk,” you can say “want milk” or “I want milk.” This will help your child learn proper phrasing.

If your child is not saying anything, you can use the expansion technique based on their gestures. For example, if your child is pointing at something, you can say the name of that object. Or you can label whatever your child is trying to communicate but can’t seem to find the right word for.

Tip # 5: Receptive vocabulary building

What You Can Do When Your Child Show Signs of Speech Delay

Last but definitely not least, you can help your child build their vocabulary by having them point to pictures of people or objects that you label. A good example of this exercise would be, “Where is the bird?” or “Where is Mommy?”

Or, you can come up with a game where they’ll have to show you or point to you what you’re asking for. The goal here is to make this activity as interactive as possible, thus increasing the chances of your toddler’s speech development.

If your toddler still shows little or no improvement even after doing all these five things, then it would be best for you to take your child for evaluation with a speech-language pathologist.

Your doctor may also suggest programs in your area, such as Early Intervention. The earlier they can receive a speech-language pathologist’s help, the better chances they have to speak normally by the time they enter school.

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