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Top 11 questions parents ask about speech delay

1. What causes speech delay in toddlers?

The causes of speech delay can be broadly divided into two categories either physical or developmental.

  • Oral motor problems

Due to defects in the areas of the brain the child has difficulty using the muscles used in


  • Hearing problem

If a child doesn’t hear properly how can we expect them to respond?

  • Intellectual delay

The child has delayed development affecting their speech, learning, social and emotional


  • Environment

It plays a major role in the development of speech. Neglect, abuse, or lack of language

stimulation can lead to speech delay.

  • Autism spectrum disorder

In a child with autism, there is delayed achievement of several milestones’ and speech being one of them.

  • Long exposure to screens

Children who were exposed to screens for long periods of time without any parental

engagement has been reported to exhibit speech delays.

2. Is speech delay genetic?

Yes, speech delay can have a genetic influence. These genetic factors influence early brain development. A few causes of speech delay like specific language impairment, autism, etc have a genetic origin. Consanguinity is also seen to cause speech and language delays in children. Children with speech and language delays are likely to have a family history of speech delay.

3. Speech delay vs autism?

Speech delay is a symptom that occurs due to many causes, autism being one of the causes.

A child with a speech delay has difficulty talking but they will try to communicate in nonverbal ways. In autism, the child also lacks social development hence he will avoid communication.

In autism, the child is motivated by his/her interests. They often do things that make them feel good, but with speech delay, the child follows social interests around them.

Hence, speech delay doesn’t always mean autism.

4. Can parents cause speech delay?

Yes, as the child needs language stimulation and interaction with the parents. If the child experiences neglect from the parent, abuse, lack of speech and language stimulation, or an environment that is not conducive to his learning, there can be a speech delay. You should interact with your kid, play with them, and plan some family time activities to stimulate speech and the overall development of the kid.

5. Do boys talk later than girls?

Yes, it has been well documented that 70% of boys are late talkers and 30% are early talkers, girls on the other hand develop language and communication skills much earlier than boys. The roles each gender plays in society can be a contributing factor to such evolution.

6. Is speech delay permanent?

Sometimes speech delay can be permanent, but early identification and early intervention can help the child cover-up, bridge the gap and achieve age-appropriate milestones. It strongly depends on the underlying cause of speech delay.

7. Is speech delay a learning disability?

Speech delay and learning disability are two different problems. Not all children with a learning disability have a speech delay and not all children with a speech delay have a learning disability. A child having a speech delay lags behind in achieving the milestones of speech development. A child with learning disability has problems with reading, writing, and spelling. With speech and language therapy, the child can catch up with his/her peers. However, it is reported that children who did not outgrow their speech delay, were later found to have a learning disability.

8. At what age should you worry about a child not talking?

By the age of 2 years if your child hasn't started saying any meaningful words, or they imitate speech or actions but don’t form words or phrases by themselves or if they repeatedly use the same words again and again or, if they have difficulty in following simple directions you should visit a speech-language pathologist or a pediatrician as soon as possible.

9. How do you stop speech delay?

To accelerate the progress of your child achieving their speech and language milestones-

  • Focus on communication- talk, sing, and play with your child.

  • Read to your child- it facilitates understanding language and pronouncing words easier.

  • Use everyday situations as a way to interact with the kid like naming fruits, everyday objects, etc.

  • Answer your child’s questions.

  • Reward them when they try learning new words.

  • Give them your full attention when they try talking.

  • Don’t answer questions for them.

10. How can I help my 2 to 3-year-old with a speech delay?

The best person to help the child is YOU. You as parents spend the most amount of time with the child. You know them the best. You partner with the speech therapist to help your child start talking.

  • You can encourage the child to say words by using objects they want. For instance, if the kid wants a cookie, help them say the word 'cookie' and praise them when they do.

  • Sing some easy poems with them.

  • Offer the child choices, like offering them two of their toys and naming them, and asking them what toy they want. If they point at it, give it to them and say here is the plane, car, or some toy. You can do it with food as well.

  • You can help them expand their vocabulary by naming body parts, daily objects, etc.

11. How effective is speech therapy for speech delay?

Speech therapy is quite effective for speech delay. The speech-language pathologist helps your child in learning how to use gestures to help them communicate better. They help the child formulate words, phrases, and sentences helping him to speak and read more clearly. In speech therapy sessions parents learn the activities and strategies to use at home to support their child’s speech and language development. Speech-language pathologists not only target attention, sitting, comprehension, and expression goals but also play, social communication, memory, and reasoning skills.


Sex differences in early communication development: behavioral and neurobiological indicators of more vulnerable communication system development in boys. Shir Adani and Maja Cepanec

Genetic Advances in the Study of Speech and Language Disorders

D.F. Newbury and A.P. Monaco


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