Thank you to speech language pathologist, Michelle Lachman for writing this informative piece about early identification of speech and language disorders.
The Early Identification Of Speech And Language Disorders
LDonline, a website offering support for children with learning difficulties, reports that around two percent of all children born each year have a disabling condition. Many of them will also have speech and language disorders that could affect their personal and social lives, as well as their achievements in education and work.
So, it’s important for parents to understand some of the potential problems and recognize early signs. Certain problems are simple and may pass as the child grows older, especially with the right help from parents. More serious problems may need the support of a professional in the field.
Comparing experiences with other parents about the sounds your baby makes or the language your three year old uses can be interesting, but shouldn’t be a reason for doubting a child’s abilities. Children develop their speech and language skills at different rates.
A very helpful approach is to keep in mind this simple checklist published by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association).
Birth–3 months: Not smiling or playing with others.
4–7 months: Not babbling.
7–12 months: Making only a few sounds. Not using gestures, like waving or pointing.
7 months–2 years: Not understanding what others say.
12–18 months: Saying only a few words.
1½–2 years: Not putting two words together.
2 years: Saying fewer than 50 words.
2–3 years: Having trouble playing and talking with other children.
2½–3 years: Having problems with early reading and writing. For example, your child may not like to draw or look at books.
Language development is a complex process and there are many contributing factors that can affect typical development. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has useful information on some of the reasons behind speech or language disorders in its Child Development pages. If a child doesn’t understand what other people say, this could be due to hearing problems or not understanding the meaning of the words.
Some children may have difficulty communicating their thoughts through language. They may not know the right words to use or how to put the words together. If they have a speech disorder, they may know the words they want to use but are unable to say them.
Speech disorders can take a number of forms. Children may have difficulty forming specific words or sounds correctly. ASHA lists p, b, m, h and w as indicators of that problem for children up to two years and k, g, f, t and d for children up to three years.
They may also have difficulties making words or sentences flow because of problems with stammering or stuttering. For example, two or three year olds might repeat the first sound of certain words — b-b-b-ball or f-f-f-farm.
Voice disorders due to illness or other conditions can affect the way a child speaks, but these may just be temporary. However, there may be more serious underlying issues that may be caused by genetic or neurological defects, brain injury or hearing disorders.
Speech or language disorders can also be associated with emotional or behavioral disorders, such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or autism.
Helping your child overcome speech and language problems
While more complex or serious disorders require professional intervention and pediatric speech therapy, there are many ways you can help your child develop their language skills and overcome any short-term problems.
To improve your child’s language abilities we recommend talking, reading and playing together as frequently as possible. You should encourage your child to talk about what they are doing, listening and responding to their stories. As they grow older, try using different words and longer sentences so that they feel confident in expanding their vocabulary.
If there are specific problems, you can help in simple ways. If your child stutters, for example, give them plenty of time to talk and don’t interrupt them. You can also help by pronouncing your own words clearly and deliberately because children will model their own speech on the sounds you make. That can help children who have difficulty pronouncing certain letters or sounds.
Ask for professional help
If you feel that your child has a speech or language difficulty and they are not improving over time, don’t delay because early recognition and intervention can prevent the problem becoming more.
Talking to a doctor first can eliminate any short-term medical causes but, for specialist treatment, it’s important to consult a qualified speech-language pathologist. SLPs carry out assessments to identify the cause of the problem and recommend a course of action to improve or overcome the condition.
About Michelle Lachman
If you would like to find out more about the services a speech-language pathologist can provide to help your child, please contact Michelle and the Better Speech team.
Michelle has earned her Masters in Speech Therapy from CUNY Brooklyn College and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the ASHA, a California State SLP license, a Nevada SLP license and a New York State SLP license. She is trained to use PROMPT, SOS approach and LSVT trained.
Michelle has been a speech therapist to many kids, even her own. So she understands how parents and caregivers feel when their loved one’s communication skills need some TLC. That’s why she started Better Speech. Her practice allows her to provide the highest quality personalized therapy for every client.
She’s worked in a variety of settings including public schools and adult rehabilitation facilities treating dysphagia and communication after a stroke.
To learn more about Michelle, visit her at Better Speech.