Speech and Language Problems in Children – When to Start to Worry?

Speech and language problems

When babies start growing they start do develop different skills and demonstrate them. Tumbling on the bed, crawling, sitting, walking, saying first words – these are all different stages of development of child. However, these stages occur at different time in each child. There is no exact period set and as long as children go through all these stages, parents have no reason for concern. Even if the age can vary, sometimes we notice how child lags behind all of his peers in development. Delayed speech and language problems are the most common issues in children development.

There are definite signs to look for delayed speech and language disorders in children. It does not matter if you are a parent, educator or daycare worker there are definite signs you can recognize in children that will they have developmental speech and language issues. What are these signs?


Speech and Language Delay

Speech and language delay are might look similar, but are actually different problems. Language delay can be observed in child who can’t make sentences and only can put together two words. In comparison a child with speech delay can make sentences, use words to express his ideas, but be difficult to understand.

Delayed speech and language can be signs of some kind of serious health problems. The earlier parents identify them, the earlier they will be able to help their child. These are the milestones for parents to understand when they should start worrying about child’s speech and language.


Warning signs in children ages 12 to 24 months

The following are warning signs to look for children who may be exhibiting delayed speech and language development:

  • If at 12 months your child is not waving bye-bye or pointing at people or objects. By this age they should be regularly saying bye-bye and pointing at things or people.
  • The child at 18 months communicates with gestures instead vocalizations, there is a problem developing.
  • Has issues copying sounds at 18 months of age.
  • The child cannot comprehend basic verbal requests.

Get help when the child is over 2 years old if:

  • The child is 2 years old and can only imitate actions or speech and is incapable of producing his own natural speech spontaneously
  • Repeats the same words continuously and he cannot verbalize beyond his immediate needs.
  • Cannot perceive simple oral instructions.
  • Has a nasal sounding or raspy tone of voice.
  • It is very difficult to understand the child more than it should be for the child’s age. You should be able to understand half your child’s verbal communication by 2-years old. By three years old you should understand 75% of what your child is communicating. By 4 years old even strangers should understand what the child is communicating.


Which specialist can help?

A specialist who deals with speech and language problems in children is called a speech-language pathologist (SLP). It is better to see a SLP specialist as soon as you noticed problems in speech development. The speech-language pathologist will observe a child and conduct special tests before concluding a diagnose.

Speech therapists work with people of all ages and during the session they will check:

  1. How child understands the words.
  2. How child says sounds and words.
  3. How child’s voice is sound (through nose, hoarse, too loud, lose voice, etc.).
  4. Sound development and clarity of speech.
  5. Using gestures through communication.
  6. Fluency of speech.
  7. Eating and swallowing.

During speech therapies parents can also be involved. They can see how to work with a child, what activities to do, how to speak to them. Moreover, a speech-language pathologist will consult on which points parents should pay attention, what toys they should buy and what games they can play at home to improve speech and language problems.


Common Speech/Language Disorders in Children

Speech and language problems

Speech Disorders

Articulation Disorder – transpires when children have trouble pronouncing certain sounds such as R and S sounds which is common in younger children. This is normal development for children as they learn how to speak but if it continues into their school years it is time to seek professional help. The disorder has no known cause but it can be related to hearing loss, cleft palate, or nervous system conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Apraxia of Speech – this is more of a complex speech disorder and is evidenced when the child has difficulty with speech rhythm, stress, or intonation. The root of the disorder is that the brain sends signals for words to the muscles that produce sounds. The muscles never receive the messages so sounds are not produced.


Language Disorders

Generally, children who have trouble forming sentences, asking questions, or starting a conversation most likely have a language disorder. These are early warning signs to look for.

Stuttering – if a child has the tendency to repeat words, parts of phrases, or parts of a word may have a stuttering disorder. If these signs are apparent in the child then the child most likely has a stuttering disorder. Stuttering is common in children ages 2 to 6 years old.

Aphasia – this language disorder is related to brain work. Brain part that is responsible for speaking doesn’t work properly which causes a child diffciculties in understanding or speaking a language. In most cases this happens due to brain injuries.


Causes of Delayed Language and Speech

Children who may otherwise have normal language and speech development may be hindered because of oral impairments with the tongue or the palate (roof of the mouth). A short frenulum (fold beneath the tongue) that functions abnormally will inhibit the movement of the tongue for speaking.

If a child has any type of hearing impairment it may cause a delay in speech and language development So, children must have their hearing checked routinely to find out if they have any hearing issues or not.

Also, these conditions are common among children with the Down syndrome and autism. Traumatic brain injuries also sometimes affect on how children speak and pronounce the words.

Chronic hoarseness and respiratory problems can cause difficulties in making sounds and saying words correctly. With children having these problems speech therapists do special exercises to teach say words in a right way and treat disorders at the same time.

Lastly, there are certain signs to look for in a child who may have language and speech delays. If any of the signs discussed in this article are present then seek out outside professional help for your children.


How to help the child

In early years parents and caregivers are the most important people in child’s life. Children listen to what others say and repeat after them, try to make the same sounds they’ve heard practice it several times. This is the way how they learn language. However, if you see that your child needs help in understanding and speaking, do not procrastinate a visit to a speech therapist.

As parents you can also help your kid at home. There are many simple activities you can do with your children to improve speech and language skills.

  1. Talk with children more. Children should look at mouth movements of speaker, so they learn how to pronounce the word.
  2. Read books together. Books help to develop early literacy skills and improve speaking skills.
  3. Sing songs and rhymes. Songs contain repetition, rhyme and rhythm that are crucial for speech development.
  4. Watch movies together. During watching ask how the plot is clear, after watching talk about characters. Ask your kid to tell what happened in the story.
  5. Help your children to learn new words. Say names of objects that you have at home, say objects that are in the street, in grocery shops.
  6. Be a good model for child. Speak clearly and correctly.
  7. Let your children crease and tear papers. Maybe it seems strange, but doing this helps fingers work more and in turn this helps brain part that is responsible for speaking work better.
  8. Buy your children small toys like Lego, jigsaw, pyramid and others. These kind of toys help to develop fine motor skills.

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