When looking at the age at which children meet certain milestones and acquire certain skills, it is important to remember that there is a wide range of ‘normal’ and these ages can vary significantly. It is common for parents of young children to worry about their child’s speech and language development and to wonder whether their child is developing as they should. Having some knowledge about speech and language development in young children can be very helpful for parents as they observe and encourage their child’s growth. Knowing more about the development of these skills can help parents identifyif there is any reason for them to be concerned or whether their child would benefit from some extra help and support.
You can learn more about the development of speech and language skills in young children and how to best support your child as they learn and grow by connecting with an experienced speech and language pathologist. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What Causes Speech Delays in Toddlers?
Some of the most common causes of a speech delay are:
Oral Impairment – Problems with the tongue or roof of the mouth (also known as the palate) or a short frenum can limit tongue movement and be a contributing factor in a speech delay
Hearing Problems – Hearing impairment or hearing loss can affect speech abilities. Whenever there is a concern regarding a child’s speech development, an audiologist should conduct a hearing test to identify whether hearing problems are a contributing factor. Often children who are hearing impaired or are affected by hearing loss may struggle to speak, understand, and imitate others using language.
Oral-Motor Problems – It is common for children with speech delays to have oral-motor challenges. Problems with oral-motor skills occur when there is something wrong in the area of the brain that is responsible for speech production. This can lead to difficulties coordinating the tongue, jaw, and lips to properly create speech sounds. Sometimes a child with an oral-motor problem will also have difficulties with feeding and swallowing.
Chronic Ear Infections – Severe and/or chronic ear infections can affect hearing which in turn can affect speech. If the child is able to hear normally in one ear, speech and language skills will typically continue to develop on track.
When Should I Start to Worry about my Toddler not Talking?
If a baby doesn’t respond to any sounds or noises or fails to vocalize at all, they should be checked immediately by a doctor. For many parents, however, it can be hard to know whether their child is developing as they should or whether they should be concerned. It is important to remember that there is a wide range of normal when it comes to speech and language development, and children reach milestones in any number of ways and varying orders.
Here are a few things to watch for that could indicate your child needs some extra support with their speech and language development:
By 1 year your child isn’t using any gestures, such as pointing or waving goodbye
By 1.5 years your child still prefers to use gestures over vocalizations to communicate
By 1.5 years old your child is not able to imitate sounds and has difficulty comprehending simple spoken requests
By 2 years old your child can only imitate or repeat speech or actions and isn’t able to produce words or phrases without prompting
By 2 years old your child only says a few sounds or words repeatedly and isn’t able to use spoken language in order to communicate more than their immediate physical needs
By 2 years old your child isn’t able to follow straightforward directions or has an abnormal tone of voice (the voice may be nasal or raspy sounding.)
Your child may also need some extra support if their speech is harder to understand than expected for their age. Parents and familiar caregivers should be able to understand about half of a child’s speech at 2 years old and three-quarters of it at 3 years old. By their 4th birthday, a stranger should be able to understand most, if not all of the child’s speech. If you are at all concerned about your child’s speech, the sooner you seek help the better. Getting started with a speech therapist is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call!
How Does Speech Therapy Help with a Speech Delay?
If you are at all concerned that your child may have a problem related to their speech development, it is important to seek the help and support of an experienced speech and language pathologist right away.
To begin, the speech therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your child’s speech and language skills. They will use standardized evaluation techniques and check which milestones have been reached and which ones may be more challenging.
The SLP will want to gain a thorough understanding of what your child is able to understand, what they are able to say, the quality and clarity of their speech, as well as the status of their oral-motor skills. Based on what they discover, the SLP will make recommendations on the best course of treatment for your child. The speech therapist will work collaboratively with you and your child to work on improving their speech and language skills and help them meet their milestones and stay on track. The SLP will also show you how you can help to support your child’s speech and language development at home.
The three best things you can do at home to support your child as they develop are:
Read Together – You can begin to enjoy reading together from the time your child is an infant. Adding reading into your everyday routine helps to establish a love of reading and is a great way to bond with your child.
Focus on Communication and Conversation – Take every opportunity you can to communicate with your child. Whether you are singing songs together, playing games, or practicing rhyming words, interacting with intention with your child can go a long way.
Talk your Way Through the Day – There are countless opportunities to practice speech and language skills each and every day. Engage your child in the creation of grocery lists or a weekly dinner menu. Work together to write a letter to a loved one or simply participate in conversations about the events of the day. Talking and giving attention to your child, as well as listening intently when they speak to you is the best way to encourage healthy speech and language skills.
Learn more about speech and language development in children and how speech therapy can help by scheduling your free introductory call today!