Signs of Speech Delays & What to Do Next

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Signs of Speech Delays & What to Do Next

signs-of-speech-delays-01Getting Started
Children who are considered late talkers are those who have fewer than 50 words at age two and use limited or no two- or three-word combinations, such as “more juice.” Most late-talking toddlers gradually catch up with their peers during the first years of school.
Parents are usually the ones who identify their child’s speech struggles. If you have concerns, you should raise it with your pediatrician once you begin to suspect a delay. Getting intervention early is key, so be persistent and pay close attention to any progress or further delays.
About 5-10% of children have a developmental disability that causes speech delays. Delays can be caused from problems with the output of speech, the input of speech or the processing of speech. You might often hear speech delays referred to as either expressive or receptive. Children with expressive speech delays have difficulties generating speech and children who struggle to decode or understand the speech of others have receptive delays. Children can also have a delay with a mix of both types.

Signs of Speech Delays

signs-of-speech-delays02 Certain risk factors or signs of speech delays at age two suggest a child should receive early language intervention services. These signs include:

  • Small vocabulary for age (fewer than 20 words)
  • Use of few action words (verbs)
  • Trouble understanding simple language
  • Limited vocalizations with few consonants
  • Reduced or absent imitation
  • Few communicative gestures (for example, shaking head for “no”)
  • Chronic middle ear infections
  • Family history of delayed speech, language, or reading

If you recognize any of the above in your child, contact your Pediatrician.  He/she will likely seek further evaluation including a hearing test and a developmental assessment.  Early intervention programs are often the referral made for children under 3 with speech and language delays.  Referrals to your local school districts might also be made for children over 3 exhibiting delays in speech or language. Assessment and treatment recommendations will likely be conducted by a psychologist and/or a speech language pathologist (SLP)

What is a Speech and Language Assessment?

signs-of-speech-delays03A speech and language assessment should be conducted prior to a diagnosis or entry into therapy or program is made. The assessment is the foundation by which the professionals will base their therapeutic and treatment approach. An assessment is often done by a SLP and will consist of meeting the child, playing with developmentally appropriate toys, and listening to the child’s sound system. Standardized tests can also be used and typically look at at least five domains:

  • Cognitive
  • Expressive communication
  • Receptive communication
  • Gross motor
  • Fine motor

Promoting Speech and Language

signs-of-speech-delays04Although early intervention and speech therapy are essential to helping a child with speech delays, there are things parents and caregivers can do to support a child’s speech, which include:

  • Reading to your child. Picture books are great because they allow you to make a game of pointing and naming familiar objects.
  • Using simple language and asking him questions. Narrating is a good practice to get into to help foster speech development. It may seem weird at first but hearing words constantly will help your child make the connections necessary to formulate his speech and language.
  • Giving positive reinforcement when your child does talk.
  • Using speech to match his gestures. When he points to an object he wants, such as a cup of juice, say “Do you want some juice?” or “Oh, you want the cup,” etc. and then give it to him.
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