As children grow, there are certain milestones parents look forward to, such as crawling, walking and speaking. By their first birthday, most children know a word or two; at 18 months, their vocabulary should consist of five to 20 words and include simple two-word sentences. But these are rough guidelines. Every child progresses at a different pace.
Approximately one out of every five children experiences a speech delay, and most eventually catch up without any sort of intervention.
Still, it’s best to bring up any concerns with your child’s doctor. If there is a language disorder or developmental problem, early treatment is key to preventing learning problems down the road.
What Are the Reasons for a Speech Delay?
A variety of factors can lead to delayed speech and language skills. These include:
- Hearing loss
- Oral anatomy (problems with the tongue or soft palate)
- Dysarthria (a disorder involving the muscles that control speech)
- Exposure to multiple languages
- Neurological disorders such as autism, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
- Learning disabilities
- Auditory processing disorders
- Premature birth
- Environmental deprivation
If your child’s doctor cannot rule out a speech delay, a speech-language pathologist should be consulted for a full evaluation. This involves a series of tests that will be used to assess your child’s receptive language and expressive language skills, sound development, speech clarity and oral-motor skills. Speech therapy may be recommended to help your child develop the skills necessary for effective communication. It is also standard protocol that the child go through an audiologic evaluation to rule out hearing loss as a cause.
What Can Parents Do?
Both heredity and environment play a role in speech development. As a parent, there are steps you can take to assist your child with speech development. Communicate often (talk and sing), encourage verbal interaction whenever possible and read to your child starting at a young age.
Call Great Lakes ENT Specialists at (231) 489-8151 for more information or to schedule an appointment.