Every child’s development is a little bit different, and some variation is normal. That said, if your child is hitting certain milestones significantly later than other children, it’s possible your child has a developmental delay.
The most common developmental delays are speech and language delays, which impact as many as 10% of young children. If your child displays signs of having a speech or language delay, early assessment and intervention can help.
Board-certified pediatrician Rainilda Valencia, MD, of Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, shares the most common symptoms and causes of speech delays and how to assess and treat your child.
Understanding speech and language delays
Speech and language delays occur when children fail to acquire language or speech at the expected rate. Your child can have a speech delay, language delay, or both.
Children with speech delays have difficulty forming sounds properly, which can result in speech unintelligible to adults or stuttering. Children with language delays have trouble talking or understanding what others are saying.
Causes of speech and language delays
Speech and language delays can occur for many different reasons. Some of the most common causes include:
- Hearing loss, including children prone to ear infections and who are hearing impaired
- Tongue and roof of mouth problems, which make it harder for your child to speak
- Developmental delays, such as autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities
- Elective mutism, when children understand language but choose not to speak
Symptoms of speech and language delays
The symptoms of speech and language delays depend on your child’s age. These are the speech and language milestones your child should meet between one and five years of age. Significant delays in meeting these milestones can mean your child has a speech or language delay.
One year old
By 15 months of age at the latest, your child should typically be able to babble or say simple words like dada and mama.
18 months old
Typically developing 18-month-old children can usually respond to simple instructions or words, such as responding when you tell your child to stop.
Two years old
A two-year-old is most often starting to talk using simple words adults can understand.
Three years old
By three years of age, typically developing children can speak in brief, simple sentences. Most can also start to speak using plural words and point out body parts.
Four years old
Most of the time, four-year-old children can share a simple story and form a sentence that is five words long. Your child should also be able to understand the difference between you and me.
Five years old
By five years old, your child should usually be able to describe their day, state their full name, and ask simple questions. They’ll also start to understand and use prepositions and past tense.
What to do if your child displays symptoms of delay
If your child isn’t meeting speech and language developmental milestones, or you have other concerns about your child’s speech development, make an appointment at Valencia Pediatrics for an evaluation. Dr. Valencia and her team can perform a developmental screening to determine if your child is meeting speech and language as well as other developmental milestones.
At a developmental screening, Dr. Valencia begins by discussing any concerns or questions you have about your child’s development. She then observes and interacts with your child, noting whether your child is meeting age-appropriate developmental milestones. If needed, Dr. Valencia develops and coordinates a treatment plan to treat your child’s delay.
Treatment for speech and language delays
The treatment Dr. Valencia recommends depends on the cause of your child’s speech and language delay. Many children with delays benefit from speech and language therapy, which teaches your child how to pronounce words properly, listen carefully, and can strengthen mouth and facial muscles.
Children with hearing problems usually benefit from restored hearing, including resolving recurring ear infections and getting hearing aids. Continuing to talk, read, and sing to your child can also help some children.
While the outcome of speech and language delay treatment can vary based on the underlying cause, with early intervention, many children with initial delays catch up to their peers. To schedule a telehealth or in-office appointment at Valencia Pediatrics, contact our team today.