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What you should know about speech delay in children?

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

What is speech delay?

Speech delay is when a child isn't developing speech and language at an expected rate. It refers to a delay in the development or use of the mechanisms that produce speech. The child is unable to produce intelligible speech sounds or words. It's a common developmental problem.

Do boys talk later than girls? Boys are three times as likely as girls to have speech delay. It is mostly seen in children with a strong family history of late talking. These children can communicate well using other means. They have a good attention span when engaged in activities that interest them.

Speech delay is also known as alalia. In a child with speech delay, speech development is significantly below the norm for children of the same age, in easier words, it means the child acquires the speech milestones at a slower rate.

A child with speech delay has speech development that is typical of a normally developing child of a younger chronological age; the speech-delayed child's skills are acquired in a normal sequence but at a slower-than-normal rate.

What causes speech delays?

Speech delay may be due to many disorders such as hearing loss, psychosocial deprivation, mental retardation, autism, and cerebral palsy. Speech delay may be secondary to maturation delay or bilingualism. Parents often ask did I cause my child's speech delay? Definitely not.

Few milestones of speech development in children

The first few years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, are the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.

Age Achievement

1 to 6 months Coos in response to voice

6 to 9 months Babbling

12 months Says the first word like mumma/papa

13 to 18 months A vocabulary of four to ten words

2yrs Vocabulary > 50 words; two-word phrases

2 ½ years A vocabulary of 400 words, including names; two- to three-word phrases; use of pronouns

2½ to 3 years Use of past tense or plurals; knows gender and age; counts three objects correctly.

What are the symptoms of speech delay?

Here are some indications to be on the lookout for:

● By 12 months the baby isn't using gestures, such as waving bye-bye or pointing at objects

● By 18 months the baby prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate and have trouble imitating sounds

● The child has trouble understanding simple verbal requests

● By 2 years the child repeatedly says few words only and has trouble using oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs

● The child can't follow simple directions

● The child has an unusual voice for an instance their voice is raspy, or hoarse

Visit your speech-language pathologist if you notice any such indications.

Is speech delay curable?

Yes, speech delay is curable. After assessment of the cause of speech delay, the first line of treatment is speech therapy for that we have specialists known as speech-language pathologists. Can I child with a speech delay catch up? Early identification and appropriate intervention may mitigate the emotional, social and cognitive deficits of this disability and may improve the outcome.

How Do You Treat Speech Delays at Home?

  • Focus on communication- you can communicate by talking to your baby, singing to them, and responding to their gestures.

  • Read to your child- as we are aware kids are quite observant and they catch things quickly, hence, reading to your child facilitates understanding language and pronouncing words easier.

  • You can use picture books that make it easier and more fun for them to understand and learn things.

  • Use everyday situations- try involving your child in the day-to-day activities like when grocery shopping name the food, explain what you are doing as you clean, and point at things across the house.

  • Respond even when they babble at a younger age.

  • Sing to them even when they are a baby.

  • Answer your child’s questions.

How effective is speech therapy for speech delay?

Speech therapy is the only treatment for speech delay. It's very effective. After the assessment, the first line of treatment for speech delay is speech therapy for that we have specialists known as speech-language pathologists. Speech therapists work alongside teachers, counselors, and parents, and help the child in speech and language development. Speech delay may have a significant impact on personal, social, academic, and, later on, vocational life. Timely detection and early intervention may mitigate the emotional, social, and cognitive deficits of this disability and improve the outcome.

Is it Speech delay or Autism?

In some cases, it is very easy to diagnose autism when a child presents overt difficulties in communication, social interaction, repetitive patterns, and sensory challenges.

There are also cases where children present a few characteristics that seem delayed or atypical and this causes both parents and professionals to consider if the child has autism or is delayed in his or her communication, social, or behavior patterns.

The professional and the parent both have roles in distinguishing the child’s traits to see which characteristics fit his or her pattern of behaviors. Some children exhibit behaviors across the board in the three major areas of communication, social interactions, and repetitive or stereotyped patterns of behavior, while other children show bits and pieces of a picture that is much more complex and where there may be other elements displayed that could fall into other diagnostic categories.

Parents and professionals can get frustrated especially when some characteristics of autism are not clear-cut. Parents may not be open at first to accepting the idea that their child has autism and it might take time for them to get used to it. On the other hand, the parents have a right to question concerns they have regarding the child’s communication and social interaction and professionals must address their perspectives about those concerns in the assessment process. The ultimate goal is to help the child succeed in education and life to the best of his or her ability and skills.

It is commonly expressed that autism is a spectrum disorder and it does not present itself in the same way to all children parent report is necessary so parents who ‘know the child’ the best can comment on the child’s abilities and skills.

If you are worried that your child is not talking yet then schedule a 1:1 consultation with our speech-language pathologist here.


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