Baby Speech and Language Delay – What You Need to Know

Speech and language delay is a matter of concern among parents. This is especially true among babies that remain silent and not making any sign of verbalizing sounds after about 12 months from birth. Before we delve further into details let us first define speech and language separately.


Speech refers to the sound our mouths produce when we try to verbalize thoughts. It becomes a problem when it is not understandable to other people. Some forms of speech problems including stuttering and mispronunciation can be frustrating to the listener and a cause of embarrassment and loss of self-confidence to the speaker.


Language on the other hand is a bit more complex because it a measure of your child’s intelligence. It is more involved with meanings of words rather than the sound they produce.


What are Speech and Language Delay?


Speech delay refers to a delay in the development of a child’s speech mechanisms. Language delay refers to the slow development of a child’s language although it is developing in the proper sequence. This problem is a bit more serious than speech delay. Speech and language delay is the most common type of developmental problem in children.


Indications of Speech or Language Delay


You should observe your baby to make sure that he or she is developing normally. If after approximately three months from birth, you notice that your child doesn’t respond to sound, you should have him/her examined by a pediatrician immediately. It can take a little longer for some children to develop or reach a particular speech or language milestone. Nevertheless, seeking the aid of a professional can help to make sure your child’s speech organs are normal in form and size. This can give you some peace of mind somehow. Here are additional signs which can help you to evaluate your child’s speech or language development:


Your Child’s Age    Your Observation


12 months              Child isn’t using gestures like pointing or waving

18 months              Child communicates through gestures and not through vocalization.

                               Has difficulty imitating sounds

24 months              Child is able to imitate speech or actions but cannot produce words

                                 Able to produce certain sounds or words but can’t use them to    


                                 Can’t follow instructions

                                 Tone of voice is different from normal


As a rule of thumb, you should be able to understand 50% of your child’s speech when he reaches 24 months. At 36 months, you should be able to understand three quarters of his or her speech.


Causes of Speech or Language Delays


1. Oral Impairment – this can come with a tongue or palate problem, or throat frenulum


2. Oral-Motor Problems – these are usually associated with problems in the part of the brain that’s responsible for speech. This disorder makes it hard for your child’s brain to coordinate with his or her speech mechanisms such as the tongue, lips and jaw.


3. Hearing Problems – can also trigger delayed speech. It is the primary reason why you need to refer your child to an audiologist when you notice that he or she has speech difficulties.


4. Ear Infections – chronic ear infections can trigger speech or language delay especially if both ears are affected. If one of the ears is working perfectly, the child’s speech and language development should be normal.


Diagnosing Speech or Language Delay


If you notice or suspect that your child might have speech or language problem, you should bring your child to a speech-language pathologist for evaluation. This is a medical professional who is authorized to conduct an evaluation of your child’s speech and language skills. This evaluation involves a standardized test that looks for your child’s speech and language development milestones.


Baby speech delay or language delay can be improved with speech therapy. It involves the help of a speech therapist who is trained to improve children’s speech and language skills. They can also give you some pointers on how you can help your child improve at home. Some of the most common ways include:


  • Spending time to communicate with your child
  • Reading baby stories to your child
  • Avoiding “baby talk”


It is not good to think that your child has speech or language development problem. But it would serve you best that if ever your son or daughter has it, you will be able to identify it as early as possible. This will allow you to address the problem and give your child a chance to improve and communicate effectively with the rest of the word.

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