Delayed Speech in Toddlers – What To Be Aware Of?

Delayed SpeechAs a parent or caregiver of a toddler, you need to know what is normal and what could represent some kind of developmental delay. Delayed speech is one area of concern. The following is a general guideline for what you can expect when it comes to speech development. If the child is not on target or close to it, ask the pediatrician to make a referral to a speech and language therapist for evaluation. Early intervention speech therapy can make a huge difference in the child’s life!

By age 3 your child should be talking in short phrases. By age 4 your child should uses sentences with more than three words. S/he should be able to use “you” and “me” correctly. By age 5 your child should be able to give first name and last name, understand commands that have two parts, talk about the day’s activities, use past tense and plurals properly. If your child is not meeting these benchmarks, the problem could be delayed speech.

Language delay in children has varied causes. Medical causes should be the first thing ruled out in cases of delayed speech. Does the child have a hearing problem? Frequent middle ear infections? Is there weakness in them muscles used for speech? Is there a deformity of the mouth? The child should also be evaluated for social developmental problems like autism. Speech disorders in children include developmental apraxia of speech. In this disorder, the child has problems with the brain planning speech, sending appropriate signals to the muscles used for speech, and executing the plan. Intellectual development should also be evaluated.

Once the cause of delayed speech is identified, a speech therapist can create a plan to address it. Depending on the severity of the disorder, the child might need to see the therapist several times a week. The parents and caregivers also play a vital role. It is their job to practice with the child at home. Consistent practice usually yields marked improvement.