WHEN TO WORRY ABOUT SPEECH DELAY

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WHEN TO WORRY ABOUT SPEECH DELAY

Delays in speech are seen commonly in young children, but early intervention can play an important role in making these children reach their highest potential. It is important to note that some children develop language a few months earlier or later than general guidelines. In children not meeting the expected milestones for speech and language, a detailed developmental assessment is essential, because delayed language development can be due to other physical and developmental problems that may first manifest as language problems. Hearing impairment, mental retardation, environmental deprivation, and psychiatric disorders are some of the important causes of speech delay in children. Language delays include difficulty in understanding what is being said (receptive language delays) or difficulty in using words (expressive language delays). Speech delays include problems producing sounds correctly or coordinating sounds into words and/or phrases. Speech and language delay in children is associated with increased difficulty with reading, writing, attention, and socialization.

Some red herrings:
By 3 to 4 months
• does not respond to loud noises
• does not babble
• does not turn head to sounds such as a bell or a ratt
• does not seem to look at faces or objects
• no social smile
• does not use her voice to attract attention

By 14 months:
• does not use any single words (like “mama”)
• shows no back-and-forth gestures, such as waving, reaching, or pointing
• does not follow simple directions such as, “give” or “come”
• does not have interest in simple books
• baby does not seem to communicate other than crying
• does not produce sounds frequently
• does not communicate in a variety of ways such as meaningful gestures

By 2 years:
• cannot speak at least 15 words
• does not use two-word phrases without repetition; can only imitate speech
• does not use speech to communicate more than immediate needs
• shows inconsistent response to words or directions
• gets easily frustrated during communication exchanges
• mostly relies on yelling, grunting for communication

The earlier a child’s speech and language difficulties are identified and managed, the less likely it is that problems will persist or worsen. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and building interpersonal relationships.