Speech Delay: Surprising Causes And Tips To Help
Is your child experiencing a speech delay? Learn more about it here.
In this article:
- What Are the Causes of Speech Delay?
- How Can Screen Time Cause Speech Delays?
- Should I Keep Screens Away from Small Children?
- What Are the Signs of a Speech Delay?
- When Should My Child Be Speaking?
- What Are Some Tips for Helping My Child with Their Speech?
- When Do We Start Seeing a Doctor?
What You Need to Know About Speech Delay in Toddlers
What Are the Causes of Speech Delay?
Not all healthy, intelligent children will learn to speak at the exact same time, but for the most part, children follow several defined language development stages. If your child does not follow these stages, even roughly, they may be experiencing a speech delay. Language delay can happen for a myriad of reasons, but some of them may surprise you.
First, the challenge may be due to an oral-motor problem; this occurs when the speech area in the brain is disrupted in some way, making it difficult for children to express themselves through the use of their jaw, lips, and tongue.
It might also be caused by a hearing problem. Sometimes, when a child has trouble hearing the correct pronunciation of words, they naturally have trouble articulating them on their own.
Alternatively, an oral impairment such as limited tongue movement (usually caused by a short frenulum, the fold under the tongue) may be causing the speech delay.
The most surprising possible cause — which has only recently been discovered — is excess screen time.
How Can Screen Time Cause Speech Delays?
A recent study presented in Toronto examined 894 children between the ages of 6 months to 2 years old. Some of the children (around 20%) used handheld screens like iPads and smartphones just about every day (for a minimum of 28 minutes per day).
The findings revealed that these children who used screens regularly were far more likely to develop a speech delay. In fact, a positive correlation was linked to time.
The more time a child spent with a handheld device, the more likely they were to develop a speech delay. The findings did not find other delays were caused by screen time (gestural, body language, social interaction, etc.).
Should I Keep Screens Away from Small Children?
In a word, yes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), small children — especially those under 18 months — should not have access to handheld screens like iPads, learning tablets, or smartphones. After this time, screen time is okay as long as the kids are watching high-quality, educational content.
It can be difficult to keep these types of screens away from your child. After all, it’s highly likely you use them yourself. When you are around your child, it makes sense that they may grab your device, and you may end up allowing them to handle the devices to keep them busy or entertained.
Unfortunately, because of the recent research linking this activity to speech delays, it’s a good idea to try hard to keep the phones, tablets, and other devices away. Many children will surely enjoy playing with and will want to play with these devices.
If you take them away, they’ll survive just fine — as generation upon generation of children has before them.
What Are the Signs of a Speech Delay?
Are you worried a speech delay may be an issue with your child? If you notice any of the following occurrences, it may be time to see a doctor or a specialist:
- Not gesturing, waving, or pointing by 12 months
- Not imitating new sounds by 18 months and/or choosing to gesture instead of making communication noises by 18 months
- Cannot follow basic instructions by 2 years
- Cannot imitate words or phrases by 2 years
- Cannot spontaneously produce new words by 2 years
- Speaks with an uncommon voice — perhaps one that is nasal, raspy, or has another quality that makes the child difficult to understand when speaking.
RELATED: When Do Babies Start Talking? Looking Forward To Key Milestones
When Should My Child Be Speaking?
Again, there is no single age at which children should begin speaking, and the various language development stages can actually vary quite a bit from child to child.
For the most part, however, babies should begin making speech sounds (or speech-like sounds) at around 9 months. They may also begin saying “dada” and mama” at this time.
From 9 to 12 months, children generally begin naming other objects and people who are common to them (“baba,” names of siblings, etc.). More expressive speech comes between 12 to 15 months, during which children should have a wider sound vocabulary and be able to understand basic sentences.
At around 18 months, most children can say at least 20 words, and they should be able to double that vocabulary by the time they reach about 2. It’s at this point that children begin creating their own phrases and sentences, although rudimentary.
Finally, large gains in vocabulary, big strides in sentence-creation, and improved comprehension generally come between the ages of 2 and 3.
What Are Some Tips for Helping My Child with Their Speech?
- Read to them. Reading helps children learn new sounds, words, and phrases.
- Talk to them and with them. Even when they are very young — just a few months old — speak to them all the time, and encourage imitation of the words and sounds you say.
- Sing to them and with them. Singing is just another form of talking, and if your child enjoys singing and music, this will make learning language even more fun. Listening to music with words is also good. Encourage your child to sing along, and of course, it never has to be perfect to be beneficial!
When Do We Start Seeing a Doctor?
If you are noticing your baby is not responding to sound at all, see your family physician right away. Similarly, if your child is not vocalizing at all, it’s time to visit the doctor.
Otherwise, don’t fret right away if your child doesn’t speak exactly according to the child development stages. Give it some time; certain children may simply learn new language skills at a different pace.
Lastly, if you do need to visit the doctor for a speech delay, don’t let it upset you or your child. Speech delays can be fixed. The first step is getting a diagnosis, and your doctor will give you the right steps from there.
Speech delay or the Einstein Syndrome is when bright children talk late. Here you’ll learn more about talking children and their families from Health • Mind • Body • Spirit:
As a parent to your child, you have to balance your expectations as well. Not all children will reach their milestones on time. Some kids will be more advanced than others, yet, this doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your child.
As a parent, though, you must also exercise your intuition and instinct. If you feel like there is something unusual with your child, don’t hesitate to seek help. With speech delay, the earlier you get treatment, the better!
Do you suspect your child has a speech delay? Share us your thoughts in the comments section below!
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