Delayed speech refers to a delay to the sounds used to produce speech. This can be caused by a number of factors, including hearing problems, physical issues like cleft lip or palate or poor muscle control, genetics or environmental circumstances. Frequently the cause is not obvious.
By contrast “language delay” refers to the use, knowledge and understanding of words and their meaning.
How to recognise delayed speech
Recognising a speech delay is done by comparing the child against average developmental milestones for the child’s age. It is possible to have varying degrees of delayed speech. If you have any concerns for your child it is important to seek the assistance of a speech pathologist who specialises in working with children.
Generally by the time a child turns one, they are starting to use some sounds to babble and start to attempt communication with those around them. Often they can use several consonant and vowel sounds and are beginning to try to say words. The use of gestures like waving, greeting and pointing at objects of desire will begin from around this age.
After a child’s first birthday b, d, m, n and p sounds begin to feature more and more in their speech, with children able to understand and follow one step instructions before they are 18 months old. Their vocabulary begins with approximately 20 words by around 18 months, and approximately 200-300 single words by the time the child turns two. A child of this age should also be able to correctly identify parts of their body and familiar objects.
Spontaneous speech that is more easily understood by more people commonly starts once your child turns two and continues to improve as they get older. It usually starts by stringing two words together, like “big dog”, and their vocabulary normally expands greatly between the ages of two and three. Comprehension should improve along with the quantity of words and concepts used.
How to assist delayed speech
There are many ways to assist your child to speak and the remedy will depend on the cause. Early intervention and assistance from a qualified speech pathologist will give the best results. Working with a speech pathologist experienced with children will help you to better understand your child’s challenges and put a plan in place for correcting early speech delays.
Vince Borg, Vicky Andrews, Genevieve Tierney, Rochelle Vizelman, Rachel Saldanha, Jocelyn Leung, Dr Lisa Furlong and Ella Mechelan all have a special interest in speech development and language difficulty. Book your child an appointment with a speech therapist at Box Hill Speech Pathology Clinic on (03) 9899 5494 or direct your child speech therapy questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.