Does My Child Have a Speech Delay?

by Sesy Widya Pakpahanbullet
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Reviewed by dr. Koh Hau-Tek
Does My Child Have a Speech Delay?
Does My Child Have a Speech Delay?

Speech delay is one type of speech difficulty disorder. Children with speech delays may struggle to socialize in the future. Don't worry! It can be prevented by parents or with professional assistance.

The most critical speech and language development periods are during the first three years of life. It is a crucial period for children to develop their language and speaking skills.

Here are the stages of language development in children:

  • 0—6 months. Children communicate through sounds, such as cries or screams. Children can recognize facial expressions and the tone of voice.

  • 6—9 months. Children learn to babble. At this stage, the muscles of the mouth and teeth begin to grow. It prepares the child for the next step. Children will also turn their heads when someone calls their name.

  • 9—18 months.  The first word usually appears in this period. Children can say one word to describe something. For example, "Mama" or "Papa."

  • 18—24 months. Children can say two-word sentences that have some meaning. The child's first sentences are usually related to events, objects, people, or everyday activities. For example, "Goodbye, Papa!" or "My teddy bear!"

  • 24—30 months. Children can say meaningful sentences, although not yet with proper grammar. Children are also able to understand basic instructions. 

  • More than 30 months. Children can convey more complex sentences and better ideas.

 The fact is, not all children show the above developmental characteristics.

Look at the following illustration:

Dina stated that her three-year-old child still couldn't speak fluently. She can only say "papa" and "mama." When she asks for something, her child can only point, cry, or call her and her husband. Dina is concerned about the health of her child. When she told other mothers about her situation, they told her about their children, who were already fluent in speaking at the age of Dina's child.

Dina's three-year-old child is not fluent in speaking. It is defined as a speech delay.

What is speech delay?

It is the inability of a child to speak properly. A speech delay is diagnosed when a child fails to meet the criteria for a language's developmental stage.

Speech delay can be caused by a variety of factors, including hearing loss and problems with the mouth, tongue, or palate. A child with hearing loss is unable to hear or understand well. As a result, they are unable to understand or mimic words.

The environment has a significant impact on a child's language and speech development. A speech delay is more likely in a child who rarely communicates and receives little stimulation. Children with certain medical conditions, such as autism, cerebral palsy, and ADHD, as well as premature babies, typically have a speech delay.

Symptoms of speech delay

Talk to a pediatrician if your child experiences the following stages:

  • 12 months old: unable to use gestures such as pointing or waving.

  • 18 months old: prefers gestures to speech.

  • 24 months: can only imitate sounds, cannot speak spontaneously, and has difficulty following instructions.

  • Since birth until now: shown no response to sounds and is uninterested in interacting with others.

To evaluate their child's condition, parents should refer to their child's developmental stages. For example, does my child show characteristics that differ from those of other children his or her age?

It is important to understand that a child who is late in speaking does not necessarily have a speech delay. Some children may take longer than others to begin speaking. Parents, on the other hand, must be aware of it.

Important notes!

  • When a child is two years old, parents or caregivers should be able to understand 50% of his or her speech, and 75% when the child is three years old.

  • By the age of four, close relatives and even strangers can understand what a child is saying.

How to prevent speech delay?

1. Talk to children as often as possible

A language is an act of social interaction. It implies that we need interactions to communicate. There are better methods than giving a child a device to watch videos to learn vocabulary. It's not the videos themselves that are incorrect. However, a child's learning is hampered by a lack of social interaction.

Use words that they will hear in everyday situations. Avoid using baby talk. When children begin to speak, they will be perplexed by made-up words. For example, instead of "tum-tum," say "tummy."

2. Do activities together

Do activities that stimulate your child's language and speech abilities, such as reading books and singing. These two activities help children learn words and sentence structures. Read it aloud to children so they can hear the sounds of the words. Involve them in reading as well. Carry out these activities on a regular basis.

When communicating, it is imperative that you respond. Positive responses are more likely to be repeated by children.

3. Give your child a chance

Allow your child to participate in communication activities to help them practice their speaking skills. Allow children to answer questions, for example. Allow your child to communicate when you notice he or she requires something.

4. Avoid noise

When talking to your child, please turn off the TV, music player, or anything else that makes it difficult for them to discern who is speaking. It is critical to ensure that all sounds your child hears are meaningful.

Speech delays are treatable. It is dependent on the child's cause and condition. Children should have difficulties during therapy sessions before the age of four, and they will recover more slowly if they wait too long.

Some children can be handled solely by their parents. Some children, however, require professional assistance.

ReferenceHealthline. Accessed in 2023. Speech Delay for 3 Years Old: What’s Normal, What’s … Indeed. Accessed in 2023. 6 Stages of Language Development and Why They Are Important. Kids Health. Accessed in 2023. Delayed Speech or Language Development (for Parents). New York Times. Accessed in 2023. Does My Baby Have Speech Delay? Papalia, D. E. & Martorell, G. (2021). Experience Human Development Fourteenth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.