Speech and language are two different things.  Speech is the verbal expression, the way we form sounds and words.  While language is being able to understand and being understood through communication.  This could be done verbally, nonverbally, or written. 

If your child is struggling with speech they may have lots of words but are very hard to understand.  Where if your child is struggling with language they may only know a few words and can only put one or two words together. 

Children develop at different rates.  When you go to a well visit at the pediatrician your doctor will be looking for certain milestones that your child should be reaching roughly around the time of their appointment.  These milestones doctors look for are rolling over, crawling, walking, and eventually talking and how many words they know.  Delays in speech or language can require intervention.  Quick intervention can make a huge difference in your child’s speech and language.  


Here are some delays your pediatrician may be on the lookout for: 

12 months old: Child has no gestures like waving, or pointing. 

18 months old: Child prefers gestures over talking, has trouble imitating sounds, has trouble understanding verbal requests, only has a small number of words.

By 2 years old: Child only imitates speech, doesn’t produce their own words or phrases spontaneously, can’t follow short simple directions, or has an unusual tone of voice that sounds raspy or nasally. 

Other delays could be having a stutter, trouble articulating sounds, or is extremely quiet in social settings.  Being quiet in a social setting for some children can be normal because they can be very shy around lots of people.  It is important to watch your child in social settings to see if they are unusually quiet instead of just being shy.  


Causes of Speech Delays

Some things can lead to language or speech delays in children.  One being their mouth structure.  Some children may have tongue tie, or lip tie conditions that cause the tongue to not extend out as far, or cause the lip to be held down too tightly causing their mouths the inability to form sounds correctly. 

Head injuries can also cause speech trouble. 

Chronic illnesses such as chronic ear infections can also delay speech. 

Hearing problems can cause speech delays.  If a child cannot hear well they may have trouble imitating sounds, or understanding what someone is saying to them.  


Diagnosing Speech Delays

Usually a speech delay will be discovered by a pediatrician at a well visit.  Your pediatrician will then pass you along to a speech therapist.  A speech pathologist will be able to check your child’s speech and language skills. 

Some things they will check are milestones for their age range.  What your child understands verbally.  What a child can say.  They will check sound development and clarity.  They will check their oral motor status, looking at the mouth, tongue, and palate.  They will also see if your child has trouble swallowing.  Sometimes if a child struggles with swallowing there is something else going on that can also cause speech delays.  


Treatment for Delayed Speech

A speech pathologist will be able to help your child with articulation, stuttering, social communication, speech mechanics, word pronunciation, and volume and quality of speech. Depending on what the speech pathologist finds during their evaluation will depend on how treatment is progressed.  The speech therapist or pathologist will make a plan on how best to help your child. 

Reading books to build vocabulary, playing, repetition, and talking all can happen during speech therapy.  Sometimes a child needs help learning how to form their mouth to make sounds.  Manipulation to help your child learn to move their mouth and tongue may be part of their therapy time as well.  Lip, jaw, and tongue exercises may be passed along so they can be continued to be done at home as well.  


At Home Tips For Improving Speech Delays 

There are lots of things you can do at home with your child if you feel like there may be a speech delay.  The biggest thing as a parent is to talk to your child.  Which to some seems silly if they can’t answer back, but talking to your child will give them that personal communication.  You can talk about anything, or describe verbally what you are doing.  This could be done while you are making dinner, “Now I am going to fill this pot with water.”  Almost as though you are narrating your life out loud for your child to hear. 

Sing songs with your child.  Some children will sing songs with words that they can’t naturally speak. 

Read to your child.  Find picture books that have pictures of things that you can name for your child to build their vocabulary. 

When you are at the grocery store, talk about the foods, say their name.  Try to give things their correct names instead of nonsense words or baby talk. 

A television will not teach your child how to talk, it is important for them to have the personal level of communication for another human not a television. 

Encourage your child to use their words calmly.  If they are trying to ask you for something with gestures ask them to say what they are asking for. 

A great way to get children to open up and use their words is to play with them.  Sitting down and letting them take the lead on how they are playing can help them be more relaxed and without pressure when they use their words. 




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