Feature | Speech Delay: Surprising Causes And Tips To Help

Speech Delay: Surprising Causes And Tips To Help

Last updated on August 2nd, 2023 at 04:03 pm

What Causes Speech Delay in Toddlers?

As a parent, few things are more exciting than your little one’s first words and watching their language skills blossom. But what if talking milestones get delayed? Not to worry! Speech delays can happen for many reasons—and fortunately, there are positive steps you can take to get your kiddo communicating confidently.

First, look into potential oral-motor challenges, where the speech part of the brain has trouble coordinating jaw, tongue, and lip movements needed for talking. Therapy exercises can help strengthen these oral muscles.

It could also be a hearing issue preventing your child from hearing words correctly to imitate them. Have your pediatrician check for fluid buildup or infection impeding hearing. Addressing any problems quickly makes a big difference!

Another possibility is tongue mobility limits, usually from a short frenulum under the tongue. A simple clipping procedure typically remedies this and gets tongues moving freely. Amazing what a difference a little snip can make!

Surprisingly, excess screen time is also linked to speech delays, as it reduces critical face-to-face interaction. Try minimizing screens to allow more direct communication and play.

The key is identifying the root causes early and taking proactive steps to help your toddler find their voice. With patience and consistent practice, those precious babbles will turn into words before you know it!


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 phones, tablets, and other devices out of sight as much as possible.

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?

woman talking to her child | Speech Delay: Surprising Causes And Tips To Help
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:

YouTube video

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!

Up Next: Stages Of Social And Emotional Development In Children

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