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Speech Delay: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Speech delay occurs when a child does not meet speech and language milestones at the appropriate ages. This comprehensive guide is designed to shed light on what speech delay is, its various forms including specific language impairment, and the different types of speech delays that can affect young individuals. This article serves as an essential resource for anyone seeking to understand or address the complexities of speech delay in children.

 

  1. What is Speech Delay?

  2. What is Specific Language Impairment?

  3. Types of Speech Delays

  4. Speech Delay Symptoms

  5. Signs of Speech Delay in Different Age Groups

  6. Speech Delay Diagnosis

  7. Cause of Speech Delay

  8. Speech Delay Treatment Options

  9. Free Speech Delay Resources: Exceptional Needs Today

What is Speech Delay?

What is Speech Delay?

 

A speech delay occurs when a child cannot use language appropriate for their specific age group. 

 

Mild Speech Delay

 

A mild speech delay can occur in a typically developing child as children progress at different rates. Many factors can cause a mild delay. Sometimes, children raised in bilingual homes might progress more slowly with speech. Boys also commonly start speaking a little later than girls. Slight speech delays are not generally something to be concerned about. However, if your child is still not speaking by 24 months, talking to your pediatrician about an early intervention evaluation is a good idea.  

 

Severe Speech Delay

 

A child with a severe speech delay may have trouble imitating sounds by 18 months and may appear not to understand or hear simple requests. By age two, a child should be saying phrases spontaneously and not just repeating, and they should be able to follow simple directions. Some of these missed milestones could indicate a severe speech delay.

 

What is a Specific Language Impairment?

 

A specific language impairment is a disorder that impedes a child’s language development in children with no hearing difficulties or neurological or intellectual disabilities. Specific language impairment is also referred to as developmental language disorder. 

 

Types of Speech Delays

 

There are three main types of speech delays. They include:

 

Developmental Speech and Language Delay

 

Developmental speech and language delay is also referred to as developmental dysphasia and is found in around 1 in 14 children. Developmental speech and language delays affect how a child learns and processes language. A developmental speech and language delay diagnosis occurs when there are no other apparent reasons for language delays. 

 

Expressive Language Disorder

 

Expressive language disorder is when a child struggles to express themselves understandably to those around them. A child with an expressive language disorder may have a smaller vocabulary than peers, and they might speak without verbs or use the vocabulary they do have inaccurately.

 

Receptive Language Disorder

 

Receptive language disorder is when a child does not process language coming in as easily as others their age. A person with receptive language disorder might hear you but process what you have said incorrectly, or your words might blend into other noises, making it challenging to understand you. A child with receptive language disorder might appear to hear you sometimes. This is unintentional.


 

Speech Delay Symptoms

 

 

Slow Speech

 

Slow speech may occur if your child has weak muscles in the mouth. Weaker muscles can cause slower or more slurred speech. A speech therapist is a great resource to address any concerns. 

 

Late Speech Development

 

Children with speech developmental delays might have a more challenging time understanding words and using their words to meet their needs. Children might not be responding when you call their names. They may seem to hear you occasionally and appear not to listen to you or others. If your child is still using gestures to meet their needs instead of their language by 18 months, they may be dealing with a speech delay. Children can also usually imitate words by 18 months and follow simple requests by age 2. If your child struggles in these areas, you may wish to bring it up to your pediatrician and ask for an early intervention evaluation. 

Many children can have a later speech development than their peers, and there is little cause for concern. Later developing speech could be due to self-consciousness, growing up in a bilingual home may cause children to begin communicating later. Often, boys will build language later than girls. However, if you have any cause for concern, it is always best to speak to your pediatrician and have your child evaluated for early intervention. Early intervention gives your child a greater chance of success.

 

Delayed Talking

 

Delayed talking is a very common occurrence. Many children develop language later than their peers. As many as 13% of children at 24 months of age will have less than a 50-word vocabulary. If you have a late talker, it is best to talk to your pediatrician about early intervention. It is also important to note that it is not necessary to have a referral for early intervention. You may contact your state’s early intervention program to begin an evaluation.
 

Signs of Speech Delay in Different Age Groups

 

There are different signs of speech delay in other age groups; seeing a speech delay at one stage does not mean you will see the same delays at each stage. 

 

Speech Delays in Infants

 

Some signs of speech delay in infants might be not responding to sounds; a toddler by the age of 15 months should be using “baby jargon” or babbling to interact with those around them. A child should be able to say at least 50 words by age two.  

 

Speech Delays in Preschoolers

 

A child should begin to use two-word phrases by age three, and by age four, they should start to form sentences. If there is any cause for concern, contact your pediatrician or an early intervention program. Your child may qualify for early intervention preschool by the age of three.

Speech Delay Diagnosis

 

Your pediatrician can diagnose a speech delay, although they may refer you to a developmental pediatrician if you feel there is any serious cause for concern. A developmental pediatrician specializes in treating developmental disorders in childhood.

 

Cause of Speech Delay

 

What are the different causes of speech delay? Some children may have issues with the structure of their mouth, such as a short frenulum (the stretchy piece under your tongue.) A speech delay can also be due to hearing impairment; still, some delays may just be due to your child progressing at their own rate. Some other causes of speech and language delay might be developmental disorders such as autism.

 

Autism and Speech Delay

 

Speech delays can sometimes indicate an autism diagnosis. Many autistic children struggle with language. Some will have minimal language skills early on and develop language much later than their peers. Other children on the spectrum will have a more extensive vocabulary but may not be able to use it in a functional way. Many children with autism benefit greatly from speech therapy at an early age.
 

Speech Delay Treatment Options

 

Speech delays can be best served with speech therapy to address receptive and expressive language deficits. An occupational therapist might be brought in to assist with any sensory issues causing language deficits. 

 

Speech Therapy for Speech Delay

 

Speech therapy is generally the best and first treatment option for a child with a speech delay. A speech pathologist can work with your child to strengthen muscles, engage in more functional language, and address auditory processing weaknesses.  

 

Speech and Occupational Therapy

 

Often, speech therapy is introduced alongside occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can introduce your child to a “sensory diet, " a series of exercises and activities that address the need for either more or less sensory input. Sometimes, eliminating sensory issues can help make way for language development. Getting your child into an early intervention program will help get the appropriate people in place to help your child succeed.


 

Free Speech Delay Resources: Exceptional Needs Today

 

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Exceptional Needs Today magazine is an award-winning different abilities publication that supports working together to promote awareness, acceptance, and inclusiveness for ALL. Visit our other articles for useful information about

  1. Autism

  2. ADHD

  3. Down Syndrome

  4. Dyslexia

  5. Intellectual Disability

  6. Speech Delay

  7. Developmental Delay

  8. Early Intervention

  9. Individualized Education Program (IEP)

 

Speech Delay: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Katie Foley is an advocate for The Arc of Northeastern Pennsylvania (TheArcNEPA.org), where she runs Sibshop, creates and presents content and trainings focused on assisting others in advocating for themselves or their loved ones and assists in individual advocacy in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Her education is in communications with a focus on theater, and she has a secondary degree in elementary education.

What is a Specific Language Impairment?
Types of Speech Delays
Speech Delay Symptoms
Signs of Speech Delay in Different Age Groups
Speech Delay Diagnosis
Cause of Speech Delay
Speech Delay Treatment Options
Free Speech Delay Resources: Exceptional Needs Today
Slow Speech
Late Speech Development
Delayed Talking
Developmental Speech and Language Delay
Expressive Language Disorder
Receptive Language Disorder

She also enjoys teaching an Acting class for Adults of all abilities that focuses on socialization and emotional understanding through Acting techniques. She has written You May Never Be French, a children's book that looks at autism through a cultural lens.

Katie has also written and contributed to other children's books and has been a contributing author for Autism Parenting Magazine and a guest blogger for other nonprofits. She is on the Family Advisory Board for Community Cares Behavioral Health in Pennsylvania and a founding board member of The Art's Alliance in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Katie also enjoys volunteering for Equestrian Special Olympics; however, she is most grateful for her role as a parent of exceptional children who teach her new things about herself and life daily.

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