The moment their child utters the words “Mama” or “Papa” for the very first time is one of the most profound and beautiful moments in a parent’s life. From two-syllable words to short phrases and finally to complete sentences – speech and language development in children is an exciting and crucial milestone in their early years.
Dear parents, while there is a wide range of normal development, we understand that sometimes you may become concerned if you notice signs of speech delay in your little one. Treat this blog as a repository of warning signs of speech delay. Read through to understand the whys and whens of speech and language development. We also request you to keep an open mind about seeking professional guidance to support your child’s development.
Understanding Speech Delay
Speech delay refers to a situation where a child is not meeting the expected milestones for speech and language development within a certain age range. It’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace, and some variation in language development is normal. It is important to recognise the signs of a probable delay and seek help for the sake of your child’s long-term development.
Signs of speech delay in young children
Children with speech delays may have a limited vocabulary for their age. They may struggle to learn and use new words.
Persistent difficulty in pronouncing sounds or words correctly, especially as a child gets older, can be a sign of speech delay.
Limited use of gestures
Young children often use gestures like pointing or waving along with their speech to communicate. This is called non-verbal communication and is an important early childhood milestone. A delay may be indicated if these gestures are limited.
Social communication challenges
Children with speech delays may have trouble engaging in social interactions or maintaining eye contact during conversations.
Repeating sounds, words, or phrases excessively, known as echolalia, can be a sign of delayed speech.
Inability to follow instructions
Struggles in understanding and following simple instructions can be indicative of a language delay.
Age-specific warning signs
Below are typical signs of speech delay parents and caregivers need to be aware of.
No babbling by 6 months
By 12 months
- Not uttering single-syllable or consonant-vowel sounds like ‘ma’ ‘na’ ‘pa’, etc.
- Not using gestures like waving, pointing, etc.
By 18 months
- Not imitating sounds
- Trouble understanding others
- Using gestures to communicate instead of words
- Saying only a few words (if at all)
By 24 months
- Not able to understand simple commands and instructions
- Not combining words ‘noun+action’, for instance ‘Mamma come’
- Knows less than 50 words (if at all)
- Not interacting with others of same age
- Not speaking in short sentences
- Not using plural words in sentences
- Identifying and pointing at body parts
- Not able to relay simple stories
- Not able to form sentences with 4-5 words
- Not able to understand pronouns like ‘you’ and ‘me’
When to seek professional help
If you observe one or more of the above mentioned warning signs in your little one, we urge you to seek professional guidance. Early intervention is essential in addressing speech delays. Below are a few indicators of when to consult with a speech therapist or speech and language pathologist (SLP):
- No progress: Child’s speech is progressing or improving over time
- Regression: Child loses speech or language skills they had acquired previously.
- Behavioural patterns: Child becomes frustrated or exhibits behavioral issues due to communication difficulties
- Social awkwardness: Child struggles to interact with peers or engage in age-appropriate social play due to language limitations
- Concerns raised by others: If teachers, caregivers, or other family members express concerns about your little one’s speech development
Speech and language therapy at Plexus
At Plexus, our speech therapy programs focus on sound production, speech fluency, and language development. We also work towards correcting the child’s communication problems, including stuttering, poor articulation, speech volume, and breath control. Our team of experienced speech and language pathologists, headed by Dr Na’eem Sadiq, will help your child overcome their speech delay with the best speech therapy program that features:
- Larynx closure exercises
- Mirror exercises
- Sign language
- Tongue exercises
- Use of augmentative devices
Through regular speech therapy and follow-ups your child will be able to –
- Associate words with ideas
- Articulate whole sentences
- Distinguish between words and sounds
- Speak clearly and intelligibly
- Improve reading and writing skills
- Develop higher self-esteem
- Hold conversations in a social setting
- Participate effectively in social and academic pursuits
- Improve concept formation, comprehension, and pragmatic skills
Things you can do at home to help your child with speech delay
Be an active participant in your child’s therapy sessions and practice recommended activities at home to reinforce progress.
Make sure you create a language-rich environment at home. Encourage language development by reading to your child, talking to them, and engaging in interactive play. When speaking to your children, especially when they’re babies and toddlers, avoid baby-talk. Use rich language, complete sentences with correct pronunciation. Speech is acquired through hearing too.
Reduce, and if possible completely avoid, screens at home. Television and mobile phones are passive one-way communicators. Research shows a direct link between screen time and speech delay.
Regularly track your child’s progress with the guidance of your child’s speech therapist. Adjust interventions and your own expectations accordingly.
Now that you’ve read till here, we’d like to remind you that speech and language development can vary among children. No two children are the same. Just because your child is not an “early talker”, you don’t need to rush to a speech therapist. Keep an eye out for the warning signs mentioned in this blog. If your child doesn’t meet the age-appropriate criteria for speech, then yes, consult a speech therapist right away.
Remember, early intervention is key.
And, nothing can help a child with speech delay as much as speech therapy!
When should you worry about your child’s speech?
If by the age of two years, your child does not utter short phrases (two or more words), does not know more than 50 odd words, does not speak spontaneously, and only repeats what others say, then you will need to consult a speech therapist.
Which age is critical for speech development?
The first three years of life are critical speech development.
What is the youngest age for speech therapy?
This can vary from child to child. Many children with developmental disabilities and congenital cerebral palsy often start with therapy as babies.