Speech and Language Delay in children

By Constance Ndeleko

Speech is the verbal expression of language and includes articulation (the way we form sounds and words).

Language is giving and getting information. Its understanding and being understood through communication — verbal, nonverbal, and written.

Speech and language problems differ, but often overlap. For example: A child with a language delay might say words well but only be able to put two words together. A child with a speech delay might use words and phrases to express ideas but be hard to understand.

A child who doesn’t respond to sound or vocalize should be checked by a doctor right away. But often, it’s hard for parents to know if their child is taking a bit longer to reach a speech or language milestone, or if there’s a problem.

It is hard for caregiver to immediately note that their children are taking a bit longer to reach their speech and language milestone. Which calls for a caregiver to be keen in different stages of a child life where development is rapid.

Studies indicate that a speech delay might be due to:

  • an oral impairment, like problems with the tongue or palate (the roof of the mouth)
  • a short frenulum (the fold beneath the tongue), which can limit tongue movement

Many children with speech delays have oral–motor problems which happens when there’s a problem in the areas of the brain responsible for speech. This makes it hard to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw to make speech sounds. These kids also might have other oral-motor problems, such as feeding problems.

When a child has articulation difficulties, they might also have difficulties with: Social skills, Expressive (using) language, Self-confidence, Fluency, Independence, Behavior and Reading and spelling which rely on sounding out the words.

Hearing problems also can affect speech. Children who have trouble hearing may have trouble saying, understanding, imitating, and using language. Chronic Ear infections can affect hearing but if one ear is normal speech and language will then develop normally

How can we encourage speech development at home?

Encouraging communication by frequently talking, singing, making gestures and imitating sound for children.

It important to read to children when they are young. This could be done through reading age appropriate books while you name the pictures displayed in them.

One is also encourage to use every situation to build the child’s speech and language throughout the day. While cooking you can teach them names of the foods, utensils while you explain what you’re doing, when cleaning you can use the tools to explain what each is used for. Always ensure you keep the talk simple.

One thing that we should also observe is that; if a child has difficulties with articulation they might: Become overly frustrated when communicating with others, when they are producing speech it could be difficult to understand them, it could be hard for them to link more than two sounds, it could be heard to produce speech that is unclear alongside dribbling and messy eating skills, the

It is paramount for a caregiver to call a doctor when their child doesn’t respond when:

  • by 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
  • by 18 months: prefers gestures over vocalizations to communicate
  • by 18 months: has trouble imitating sounds
  • has trouble understanding simple verbal requests
  • by 2 years: can only imitate speech or actions and doesn’t produce words or phrases spontaneously
  • by 2 years: says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can’t use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs
  • by 2 years: can’t follow simple directions
  • by 2 years: has an unusual tone of voice (such as raspy or nasal sounding)
  • Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 50% of a child’s speech at 2 years and 75% of it at 3 years.
  • By 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.

One of the best approaches to healing speech and language delay is by recognizing and treating them early. Therefore it is important for one to seek a speech therapist for their children for speech assessment.

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