When it comes to the development of speech and language skills in children, most 3-year-olds know a word for almost everything around them and should be able to combine those words to make short, simple sentences. Approximately 50 percent of their speech should also be understandable.
When discussing developmental milestones, it is important to note that children master these skills at different stages and in varying order. Like most developmental milestones, speech and language milestones and skills have a wide range of what is considered normal development. While not all young children will reach these milestones precisely on time, if a 3-year-old child is still fairly far off from these skills, they may have a speech delay.
Early intervention often offers the best outcome when it comes to treating children with speech delays. Even children who are reaching milestones on time can benefit from time with a speech therapist. Getting your child started with speech therapy is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is a Speech Delay?
‘Speech delay’ is a general term that is used to describe instances in which young children are not reaching their speech and language milestones when they should. As the child gets older, they may be classified as having an expressive language delay or phonological disorder. In the case of young children, it can be difficult to determine the exact challenges and deficits in their communication skills. For these children, the general term of speech delay is used, and then work begins on the specific challenges they are struggling with.
Below are several markers that will help you understand the specific speech skills a young child should have at each age and stage:
1 Year Old: The child should show interest in interacting with others and may produce their first word around their first birthday.
2 Years Old: The child should have a vocabulary of more than 50 words and should be able to combine two words, such as “daddy go”.
3 Years Old: The child should know a word for almost everything around them and should be able to form 3 word sentences, such as “that’s a cat”.
4 Years Old: The child should be able to create 4-word sentences and should also be understood by others at least 3/4s of the time.
5 Years Old: The child should be able to use grammatically correct sentences and should also be understood by others at least 90% of the time.
Speech Delay Treatment: What Can We Do in Therapy or at Home?
A child with a suspected speech delay should be evaluated by a qualified speech-language pathologist. The speech therapist will be able to properly assess all areas of communication and identify the best treatment and speech therapy approaches for each child. However, several treatment strategies should be implemented with all children with a suspected or formally diagnosed speech delay. These strategies should be used both at home and in therapy to help improve the speech and language skills of the child.
Self Talk – This means simply talking about what you are doing in your child’s presence. Try describing the object you are holding, what you see, the actions you are performing, how you feel, and what you hear, taste, or smell. Children learn from hearing adults talk about all kinds of things. It is important to keep your sentences and observations short, speaking in phrases the same length as your child’s or a little bit longer.
Use Sign Language – For this strategy, while continuing to use the self-talk strategy described above, you will pair spoken words with a corresponding sign language sign. Studies have shown that sign language serves as a great tool to encourage children to start talking (or talking more), particularly late talkers. Once the child learns the power of communication through sign language, they will eventually abandon signing in favor of spoken language, as that will become a more effective mode of communication for them.
Expansions – This strategy includes building on the child’s existing speech or gestures through expansions. This simply means taking whatever the child says and adding one word to it. For example, if the child says “ball”, you might say “want ball”, “my ball”, “red ball”, “throw ball”, or any other phrases that combine the word ball with another word.
In cases where the child is not saying any words yet, begin by building on their gestures. Whenever they point at something or make a gesture to communicate, say the word that goes along with that gesture, or name the object they are pointing to or reaching for. Labeling the emotion they are feeling, their need (hunger, thirst), or anything else you feel they are trying to communicate is also helpful.
Receptive Vocabulary Building – This involves working to increase the child’s receptive vocabulary. Receptive vocabulary involves all of the words the child can understand when you say them, even if they are not saying them themself yet. Children must first understand the meanings of words before they can properly use them. It is possible to increase the child’s receptive vocabulary by having them point to objects, pictures, or people when you say the word for them.
For instance, you might say “Where’s Daddy?” and help the child look towards or point to Daddy. This is also great to do while reading books together. By asking, “Where’s the ___” or “Show me the ___”, you can ask the child to point to an object in the book. Allow the child a bit of time, and if they can’t find it, then you can point it out for them and help them point to it as well. The more you do this, the sooner the child will be able to understand more words.
If you think your child needs extra support as they develop their communication skills, speech therapy can help. Get your child started on the path to clearer speech by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Can Speech Delay be Overcome? Can a Child Recover from Speech Delay?
Uncomplicated speech delays in young children are sometimes temporary. In some cases, they may resolve on their own or with a little extra support from family. It’s important to encourage your child to communicate with you using signs, gestures, or sounds. Spending lots of time reading to, playing with, and talking to your child is also important.
How Long Does it Take to Correct a Speech Delay?
The amount of time required to correct a speech delay varies significantly between children. In some cases, 15-20 hours of speech therapy is sufficient to improve speech, in other cases speech therapy is ongoing for months or even years.
What is the Best Treatment for Speech Delay?
The best treatment for speech delay is regular speech therapy appointments with an experienced speech therapist. Speech therapists are experts when it comes to identifying specific speech challenges, setting communication goals, and designing unique treatment plans to meet the specific needs of each child.
Don’t wait to get your child started with speech therapy; schedule your free introductory call today!