Perhaps you know that you got your brown eyes from your mother and your blonde hair from your father. But not many people realize that speech and language patterns and abilities are also inherited from one’s parents. Developments in scientific and medical research have revealed that it is also possible to inherit a predisposition or susceptibility to speech and language disorders. This works in the same way that other risks of developing conditions can be inherited, such as diabetes or heart disease.
The link between genetics and speech and language disorders is complex and can reveal clues about an individual’s genetic makeup. Just as in the case of other medical conditions and health problems, the more that is known about an individual’s genetics, the more opportunities there are to practice prevention and be proactive.
Speech therapy is the best resource when it comes to supporting the development of speech and language skills, as well as strengthening and improving these skills over time. If you think you or a loved one would benefit from spending time with a speech therapist, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today.
Do Speech Issues Run in Families? Can Speech Impediments be Passed Down?
Significant evidence links genetic factors to a wide variety of speech and language difficulties. Studies are cross-disciplinary, meaning that physicians, scientists, and speech-language pathologists are working together through research to identify specific genetic factors that are linked to the development of communication disorders. Researchers have already identified more than 400 genes linked to hearing impairment, and research is ongoing to establish specific genetic links to such communication disorders as stuttering, voice disorders, and expressive and receptive language disorders.
What Kind of Speech Disorders are Hereditary?
Several types of speech and language disorders appear to be closely connected with genetics:
Specific Language Impairment
Specific language impairment (also referred to as SLI) is a type of communication disorder that disrupts the development of a child’s language skills who does not have hearing loss. SLI can affect a child’s ability to speak, listen, read, and write. Specific language impairment is also often referred to as language delay, developmental language disorder, or developmental dysphasia.
Studies have shown that as many as 50-70% of children with SLI have at least one member of their family who is affected by the same disorder.
Stuttering is a speech fluency disorder that disrupts the regular fluency and flow of speech. Individuals who stutter know what they want to say, but have difficulty getting the words out.
Recent research has shown that genetics may play a part in at least some cases of stuttering.
Speech sound disorders are among the most commonly seen communication disorders in children. Speech sound disorder is an umbrella term that refers to a single difficulty or a combination of difficulties related to perception, motor skills, or phonology. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests there is an underlying genetic basis for the development of speech sound disorders.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)
Childhood apraxia of speech is typically present from birth and affects the child’s ability to plan and produce specific letter sounds through the movement of the articulators, often making speech unclear or difficult to understand. There has been a specific gene mutation (FOXP2) identified that links family members with CAS.
Why is it Important to Understand the Role of Genetics in Speech Problems?
Just as is true in so many parts of life, the more information we have, the more proactive we can be. Understanding your family’s medical history can help inform decisions about preventative practices and care. When looking at a family’s medical history, speech and language disorders aren’t always included. In fact, a family history of communication disorders may not seem relevant until your child meets with a speech therapist.
If you are aware of a communication disorder among family members, early prevention and intervention can give your child the optimal chance to develop strong and healthy communication skills. It is highly important to discuss any family health issues that may be genetic with your healthcare provider for the sake of awareness and so that preventative measures can be taken.
If you or your child is struggling with communication, connecting with a speech and language pathologist is a good first step. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Tips for Parents
Avoid the Blame Game
Don’t spend time feeling guilty or badly if you struggle (or have struggled) with a communication disorder and may have passed a genetic predisposition onto your child. Focus on supporting your child as they learn and grow and encouraging them wherever they may be with their communication skills.
Find a Qualified Speech and Language Pathologist
Speech and language pathologists are expertly trained in general knowledge surrounding the development of communication disorders, the role of genetics, and how to effectively treat these disorders. At Great Speech, connecting with an optimally suited speech therapist is simple and easy. With a network of more than 50 qualified and experienced SLPs, connecting each individual with the best therapist to fit their needs is always possible.
If you are concerned about the development of your child’s communication skills, early intervention is essential, whether there is a genetic link or not. The importance of beginning speech and language therapy as early as possible cannot be overstated, especially when there is a family history of communication disorders.
Speech therapy is a great option for all children, even those who are developing as they should. Don’t wait for your child to fall behind, get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!