Speech and Language Development FAQ: Everything Parents Need to Know

Boy miming hearing against a white backgroundMay is Better Hearing & Speech Month, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). This annual observance is meant to raise awareness about communication issues, and the theme this year is “Communication for All.”

It’s important for parents of young children to learn about the signs of potential speech and language development issues. Here are the answers to some essential questions you might have about childhood speech and language development, including signs of delays, what causes them, and what you can do to help.

1. What’s the difference between speech and language? Language involves the broader process of understanding other people and making yourself understood with both verbal and non-verbal communication, while speech entails verbally expressing yourself and articulating sounds and words, according to KidsHealth.

For instance, a child with a speech issue might have trouble pronouncing certain words, while a toddler with a language delay might pronounce things correctly but have difficulty putting together sentences to convey ideas. While speech and language issues are distinct, they frequently occur at the same time.

2. What are the signs of a speech or language issue? If your baby isn’t responsive to sounds or doesn’t vocalize, you should definitely see your healthcare provider as soon as possible, according to KidsHealth. However, speech and language issues aren’t always obvious. Some children just take longer than others to reach certain developmental milestones.

If you’re worried your child might be experiencing a speech or language delay that requires medical intervention, here are some signs to watch out for, according to ASHA.

Signs of speech disorders

  • Issues saying p, b, m, h, and w correctly in words at the age of 1-2
  • Trouble saying k, g, f, t, d, and n correctly in words and/or being hard to understand even to people who know them well at the age of 2-3

Signs of language disorders

  • Not smiling and/or playing from birth to 3 months
  • Not babbling at 4-7 months
  • Not displaying gestures like pointing and waving at 7-12 months
  • Only saying a few words at 12-18 months
  • Having a vocabulary of less than 50 words at 2 years

These are just some of the warning signs. Visit the ASHA website for a full list.

3. What causes speech and/or language delays in children? If a child who is otherwise developing normally experiences a speech or language delay, an oral issue (e.g., a problem with their tongue or the roof of their mouth) could be to blame, KidsHealth states. Hearing problems can also cause delayed speech.

4. What can I do to help my children if they have trouble with speech and/or language? Communicating with your child as much as possible by talking, singing, and gesturing can help with speech development, according to KidsHealth. Reading to your kids starting when they’re babies also promotes speech and language development.

If you think your child might have a speech or language disorder or delay, early intervention is the best course of action. At Little Steps, our pediatric speech therapy services help children of all ages with speech and language disorders. Our pediatric therapists can evaluate and treat articulation disorders, fluency disorders, communication challenges, language disorders, and more. To get more information, feel free to contact us by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.

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