Speech Delay: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

Speech delay is a common developmental problem that affects almost 10% of preschoolers (1). Such children have trouble expressing themselves and understanding others.

Causes of Speech Delay

There are numerous possible causes that may affect child’s speech. Some of the common causes of speech delay are:

  • Hearing Impairment: Children having hearing impairment have language impairment as well. If they are not able to hear the language, learning to speak it becomes difficult.
  • Autism: This condition affects the speech in children. But, not all the children suffering from autism have speech delays.
  • Intellectual Disability: There are various intellectual disabilities that can lead to language delay. For example, dyslexia is a learning disability in which the speech is delayed in a child.
  • Psychological Issues: Various psychological issues can lead to language delays as well. A child facing severe neglect can have problems with speech development.
  • Bilingual Home: When staying in a bilingual home, the brain has to work harder to interpret and use the 2 languages. It may take the child a bit longer to start using either one or both languages.

There are few risk factors for speech delay problem, which include:

  • Being male
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Family history of speech delay
  • Parents with lower levels of education

Symptoms of Speech Delay

A child, having a speech delay does not reach the speech milestone at a proper age.

Common symptoms of speech delay include:

  • Delay in babbling which should occur by 15 months
  • Unable to talk by 2 years of age
  • Inability to speak short sentences even on reaching 3 years of age
  • Difficulty in following directions
  • Poor pronunciation
  • Putting words together into sentences becomes difficult for the child
  • Leaving words out of a sentence

How Is Speech Delay Diagnosed?

A doctor helps recognize speech and language delay. Once assessed, the child is referred to as a speech-language pathologist. A comprehensive assessment of the child’s expressive and receptive language is made by him if the child has a speech delay.

After completing speech and language evaluation the pathologist recommends other examinations such as hearing examination to check for hearing problems.

Treatment of Speech Delay

Some children do not require any treatment and develop speech though late but on their own, while few might require help. Depending on the cause of the condition the treatment is planned.

After the condition is diagnosed the child is referred to a speech therapist. He can show you how to help the child talk more and speak better. They also help the child to listen or how to lip read.

Other healthcare workers who may help the child and the parents are an audiologist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist or a social worker. Depending on the need, the child is referred to these healthcare workers.

How to Encourage Speech Development?

It is not possible to prevent language delay in all the condition such as in those with hearing or learning disability, it would be difficult to prevent speech delay.

Following tips can help prevent speech delay in a child:

  • Talk to the child from the time they are born
  • When the child babble, always respond to them
  • Sing to the child
  • Read aloud to the child
  • Always answer when the child asks any question

The outlook of the condition varies in different children. Some would catch up with their peers and meet future language milestones while a few might find it difficult in overcoming language delays and face problems in later childhood. Some children might face reading or behavior problems as a result of delayed speech development.

It is important to go ahead with the treatment if a child is diagnosed with a speech delay to prevent other problems such as social, emotional, and learning problems during the developing years.

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