Given the importance of identifying speech and language problems as early as possible in your child's development, what signs should parents look out for? While there are many possible indicators of speech and/or language delays, some are more common than others, and range in subtlety and complexity. Here are 5 early warning signs of speech and language issues that you need to look out for as a parent.
Is your child stuttering?
If your child involuntarily repeats sounds, hesitates when speaking, repeats certain specific syllables, or has other difficulties speaking at a young age, then they may have a stuttering problem. As a parent you might have trouble telling the difference between normal stumbling blocks in language learning and a stutter. A child following the typical pattern of development might repeat a word once or twice and normally encounters this "typical non-fluency" around the age of 2 or 3, whereas one with a stuttering problem may repeat more than twice on many words/and or sounds , show tension around their facial muscles and demonstrate other difficulties associated with stuttering.
Is your child two years old, but still using only a few single words to communicate?
At this stage a child has a vocabulary of at least 50-100 words (please see details for milestones on the Speech Therapy Centres of Canada website. If your child is still only using a few words and has not caught up with peers, it could be the sign of a language delay. Many parents wait and hope they will "snap out of it" or "catch up" to everyone else. There are many reasons as to why a child is not talking, according to the typical milestones. It is helpful and important to be proactive and become educated on what is typical or not. A child of 2-3 years old should start developing a wide vocabulary, join two words together, and by 3 years use at least 3-word sentences. If you notice your child is behind, a professional can help.
Is your child having difficulty with pronouncing sounds in words?
There are many reasons why your child may have difficulty with pronouncing sounds (also known as articulation) including difficulty with motor control, hearing problems, cleft lip and palate and more. In certain instances a child may have trouble with sound rules -- this is described as a phonological disorder. It is important to note that articulation is distinct from language expression and comprehension, but a child could have issues with both. Your speech-language pathologist can determine what some of your child's difficulties may be and whether speech therapy is warranted. Based on your child's assessment, they will also outline the proper treatment plan.
Does your child have a diagnosis or red flags for an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction as well as repetitive behaviours, the symptoms of which are frequently evident at a young age, often before age 2. The word spectrum is used since the symptoms are so wide and varied. Some of the early warning signs are social impairment, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty in communicating. A speech-language pathologist can help your child by providing the necessary tools they require to develop speech, language and social communication skills. The speech-language pathologist will also support the other professionals involved in treatment, as a collaborative approach is essential to success.
Is your child not interested in talking?
A child's speech and language development should be evident by the age of two. If they continually seem disinterested in speaking and communicating with you or others, or are only able to say a few words, then there could be a speech and/or language issue present. Again, it is best to consult with a professional to identify and treat any issues.
If you notice any of these signs, it's best to seek treatment as early as possible. Contact Speech Therapy Centres of Canada today to find out how we can help.