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At the age of 2 years of age, my son Ezra was not talking much, one or two words at a time that was it. He was verbal but not in the normal sense. Over the years he went through phases of stuttering, taking deep breaths and a few others before muttering a few words barely audible.

What made the most noticeable difference was looking into the root cause of the problem and getting professional help.

Important note:

With speech or language delay if you notice any signs don’t hesitate to get in touch with a specialist to get the proper help your child needs.

Living in Mexico for a little over three years now, he is grasping the Spanish language very well. The myth that bilingualism can affect those milestones and make it more difficult for speech development is false and you can read about it here.

Even now at 5 years old, he is still a work in progress. After multiple tests including hearing and brain function, nothing came back abnormal, which is pretty precarious so we have no real information to focus our attention on directly. (side note, he still speaks more Spanish than I do)

In today's world speech delay is defined as a delay in developing speech and language skills. There are some instances where young kids would have a delayed speech. as in speaking late for their age, which is temporary. When the delay persists it is serious then, and that's when it can be a serious problem. There are many possible causes of speech delay, including hearing loss, developmental disorders, and environmental factors. Getting to the bottom should be your priority which will in turn give a clear understanding of getting the right treatment

So speech delay is defined as a delay in developing speech and language skills. There are some instances where young kids would have delayed speech, as in speaking late for their age, which is sometimes temporary. When the delay persists a specialist should then be involved.

There are many possible causes of speech delay, including hearing loss, developmental disorders and environmental factors. Getting to the bottom of the reason should be the priority which will in turn give a clear understanding of getting the right treatment.

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Knowing What Speech and Language Delays is

At a certain age, a toddler should be showing signs of attempting to talk and sounding out words. A few signs to look for are when toddlers are pointing at something they want, having eye contact with you or when signs in their body language.

Understanding Milestones

One of the first steps in understanding speech delay is to know the typical developmental milestones for young children. These milestones include gestures, babbling, first words, and two-word phrases. Please remember that each child is different and learns at their own pace.

  • Age 1 says “mama” and “dada”.
  • Age 2 makes two-word sentences like, “my toy” or “dog go” using approximately 50 words.
  • Age 3 uses more simple sentences but is more coherent and easier to understand with repeating after you more easily.

Knowing the Role of Hearing In Speech Development

When a child has hearing problems it affects the way they listen and understand and how words and sounds are formed. It is a major contributor to speech problems in younger children.

If a child has chronic ear infections or other hearing issues, that can also be a cause of delayed speech and should be seen by an audiologist and get a hearing test.

Hearing is one of the more important senses and should checked regularly, as we all need hearing for good communication.

Inherited Traits & Neural Factors

In some cases, speech and language delays could be passed down through genetic or neurological factors. An example, children with global developmental delay or traumatic brain injury may experience speech delays also.

  • Family History: The history of speech impediment in the family causes a similar issue in a child.
  • Specific Genes: Research has shown there a genes that affect speech and language development.
  • Overall Development Genes: Genes that deal with overall cognitive functions that affect the way children learn.

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What Causes of Speech Delay

Speech delay is a common concern among parents of toddlers. While some children may develop their language skills at a slower pace than others, it is important to identify the underlying causes of speech delay to determine the appropriate interventions. Here are some of the common causes of speech delay in toddlers:

Environmental Influences and Bilingual Homes

Toddlers understand a lot of what we are saying way before they can say it. So living in an environment where a child is exposed to limited language being spoken will affect the child’s speech.

Children who grow up in bilingual homes, for instance, may take longer to develop their language skills as they have to learn two languages at the same time. However, research shows that bilingualism does not cause speech delay, but rather it may cause a temporary lag in speaking.

Physical Impairments

When we speak we use our tongue and different parts of the mouth to pronounce and articulate words. Children with short frenulum, cleft palate or auditory processing disorder may struggle with their speech. Similarly, neurological disorders, such as Down syndrome and brain damage, can also affect speech delays in children.

With that said not all children with those impairments suffer the same effects.

How to Prevent Long-Term Speech Delay

The Role of Early Intervention Programs

Early intervention programs are designed to identify and address developmental delays in children as early as possible. This can include speech and language delays, as well as other developmental delays.

Early intervention programs involve various specialists working in certain speech areas like speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be tested for developmental delays at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months of age. If a delay is found, early treatment can begin to mitigate any long-term effects.

Research also shows that early treatment improves the outcomes for children with developmental delays, including those with speech delays. This is because children learn a lot and quickly during a period of rapid brain growth.

Speech Therapy Tricks and Goals

Speech therapy is the best and most common approach to treating speech sounds in toddlers. There are a range of techniques and goals, depending on the individual needs of the child. Some common speech therapy techniques are:

  • Articulation therapy: This is working on the sounds of speech that the child is having difficulty with.
  • Language intervention therapy: This is working on the child’s expressive and receptive language skills.
  • Oral motor therapy: This involves working on the muscles used for speech and eating.

The goal of speech-language therapy can vary depending on where the child is having problems with their speech. Some areas are improving speech clarity, increasing vocabulary, and improving overall communication skills.

Sometimes the cause of the speech impediment is a larger effect and will need a combination of treatments of different approaches.

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Supporting Language Development at Home

As a parent or caregiver, you play a crucial role in supporting your child's language development. By creating a language-rich environment and using effective strategies, you can help your child build their communication skills and overcome speech delays. Here are some tips to get you started:

Helping Words to Grow

In helping a child improve their speech, they need to be involved in an environment that is rich in communication. They should be surrounded with opportunities to hear and use language as often as possible. A few tips for a language-rich environment at home:

  • Read to your child every day: Choose books with colorful pictures and simple sentences, and encourage your child to point to and name objects in the pictures.
  • Talk to your child throughout the day: Describe what you’re doing, ask your child questions, and encourage them to respond or repeat what was just said.
  • Play music and sing songs with your child: This can help them develop their listening skills and learn new words.
  • Limit screen time: Too much screen time can interfere with language development, so it’s important to set limits and encourage other activities.

Practical Suggestions

Besides ensuring an optimal home setting that is compatible with learning, keep in mind that children with speech delay may struggle with following directions. Provide clear and simple instructions, and exercise patience if they make mistakes.

Use simple, clear language. Speak slowly and clearly, and use short sentences and simple words.

  • Repeat and expand on your child’s words: If your child says “ball,” you can respond by saying “Yes, that’s a ball. It’s a red ball.”
  • Praise your child’s efforts: When your child makes an effort to communicate, whether through words, gestures, or sounds, give them plenty of praise and encouragement.
  • Imitate your child’s sounds and gestures: This can help your child feel heard and understood, and encourage them to keep communicating.
  • Give simple, clear verbal requests: Instead of saying “Clean up your toys,” try saying “Put the blocks in the basket.”

Don’t hesitate to seek out resources and support if you need it, such as speech therapy or parenting classes.

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