Speech is actually the sound that comes out of our mouths. Language is the understanding of what the words mean. When a child’s language or speech is developing in the right sequence, but at a slower rate, a child is said to have a speech or language delay.
“Delayed speech or language development is the most common developmental problem. It affects five to ten percent of preschool kids.” (1)
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that any “speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child’s social and academic skills and behavior.”
Causes of speech and language delays
As with most things, there isn’t just one root cause of speech and/or language delays. Causes may include:
• Language-based learning disability
• Hearing loss
• Intellectual disability
• Neglect or abuse or lack of exposure to language and speech
• Being born prematurely
• Auditory processing disorder
• Neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy
• Cleft lip, or left lip and palate, as well as other structural issues
• Speech apraxia
• Selective mutism
Does my child really have a speech delay? Or is she just a late bloomer?
The key, here, is to look at your child’s ability to communicate overall, and not just whether or not he or she is using words. Your child may not say much, but he/she should still be able to indicate to you what he or she wants.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a list of age-related speech and language milestones that you can review here.
Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services (Canada) also has a communication checklist that’s available in several different languages: here.
These are the things that, on average, most monolingual speaking children will accomplish by the upper age in that age range. Remember that just because your child is not able to do one of the skills does not mean there is a speech or language delay.