Child Speech and Language
Children's speech and language development follows a typical pattern. If you have concerns about your child's speech or language, consult a speech-language pathologist.
How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?
The development of communication skills begins in infancy, before the emergence of the first word. Any speech or language problem is likely to have a significant effect on the child's social and academic skills and behavior. The earlier a child's speech and language problems are identified and treated, the less likely it is that problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships.
Early Detection of Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders
Do you have a child 3 years old or younger?
Are you worried because your child doesn't seem to listen?
Has your child started to say any words?
Does your child cry a lot or have tantrums?
Your child may have early signs of a speech, language, or hearing disorder.
Don't wait and hope your child will outgrow a communication problem. Early spoken language disorders can result in problems with reading, writing, and learning. They also may lead to problems with social skills, like making friends. Early detection leads to early treatment. The earlier you get help for your child, the better.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) help children of all ages who have spoken and written language disorders, speech sound disorders, stuttering (disfluency), and voice disorders. Children may have one or more of these communication disorders.
Identify the Signs
Here are some of the signs to help you determine if your child has a speech, language, or hearing disorder. It helps to know about typical speech and language development. More information about identifying the signs of communication disorders is available at Identify The Signs.
Signs of a Language Disorder
Doesn't smile or interact with others (birth–3 months)
Doesn't babble (4–7 months)
Makes few sounds (7–12 months)
Does not use gestures (e.g., waving, pointing) (7–12 months)
Doesn't understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
Says only a few words (12–18 months)
Doesn't put words together to make sentences (1½–2 years)
Says fewer than 50 words (2 years)
Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2–3 years)
Has problems with early reading and writing skills—for example, may not show an interest in books or drawing (2½–3 years)
Ways to Help With Language Disorders
Listen and respond to your child
Talk, read, and play with your child
Communicate with your child in the language that you are most comfortable using
Know that it's good to teach your child to speak a second language
Talk about what you are doing and what your child is doing
Use a lot of different words with your child
Use longer sentences as your child gets older
Have your child play with other children
Signs of a Speech Sound Disorder
Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words most of the time (1–2 years)
Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words most of the time (2–3 years)
Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)
Ways to Help With Speech Sound Disorders
Say the sounds correctly when you talk—it's okay if your child makes some mistakes with sounds
Don't correct speech sounds—it's more important to let your child keep talking
Signs of Stuttering (Disfluency)
Struggles to say sounds or words (2½–3 years)
Repeats first sounds of words—"b-b-b-ball" for "ball" (2½–3 years)
Pauses a lot while talking (2½–3 years)
Stretches sounds out—"f-f-f-f-farm" for "farm" (2½–3 years)
Ways to Help With Stuttering or Disfluency
Give your child time to talk
Do not interrupt or stop your child while he or she is speaking
See an SLP if you are concerned (Many young children stutter for a short period of time; in most cases, the stuttering will stop.)
Signs of a Voice Disorder
Uses a hoarse or breathy voice
Uses a nasal-sounding voice
Ways to Help With Voice Disorders
See a doctor if your child sounds hoarse or breathy or has a nasal-sounding voice
Tell your child not to shout or scream
Keep your child away from cigarette smoke
Our beautiful two year old son was growing and meeting all of the developmental milestones, except for one important area. He was unable to talk. Despite months of searching for answers and assurances that he would learn to talk, we saw no progress despite our efforts to help him to speak. We wanted to believe the words, “Don’t worry, he will talk eventually”, but we knew in our hearts that something was wrong.
Eventually our search led us to Advanced Children's Therapy. There we found a great combination of skill and expertise in the field among the staff, along with their genuine caring and sensitivity to the needs of our child and our family have brought us through an amazing year.
Our journey with speech issues began when our daughter was just 2 years old. She was completely nonverbal and had been receiving Birth to Three services for about 6 months with no progress. We researched and decided to seek help. I truly believe we were under a lucky star when our pediatrician referred us to Advanced Children's Therapy.
They were able to diagnose my child determine her needs immediately, starting her on a plan of care that brought her to the happy, loving, talkative 4 year old that she is today. There are no words to describe how grateful we are for everything.
What Is Speech-Language Therapy?
Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most kids with speech and/or language disorders. A speech disorder refers to a problem with the actual production of sounds, whereas a language disorder refers to a difficulty understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. Therapists use a variety of intervention approaches including the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Speech therapy is an intervention service that focuses on improving a child's speech and abilities to understand and express language, including nonverbal language. Speech therapists, or speech and language pathologists (SLPs), are the professionals who provide these services. Speech therapy includes two components:
1) coordinating the mouth to produce sounds to form words and sentences (to address articulation, fluency, and voice volume regulation)
2) understanding and expressing language (to address the use of language through written, pictorial, body, and sign forms, and the use of language through alternative communication systems such as social media, computers, and iPads). In addition, the role of SLPs in treating swallowing disorders has broadened to include all aspects of feeding.
What is the Difference between Speech and Language? Aren’t they the same? Is there a difference?
No. They aren’t the same thing, and yes, there is a huge difference between the two. The process of speech occurs naturally when appropriate stimulation occurs and progresses without conscious thought. From infancy, we begin developing the milestones of speech that help us begin communicating with sounds, and then, our speech skills help us develop language. Speech – “Speech refers to the sounds that come out of our mouth and take shape in the form of words,”(Hamaguchi, 1995) The speech process is extremely complicated when you study the scope and sequence of its development.
A number of events must occur for us to speak. The brain MUST: • Want to communicate an idea to someone else. • Send the idea to the mouth. • Tell the mouth which words to say and which sounds make up those words. • Incorporate patterns and accented syllables (to avoid sounding like a robot). • Send the signals to the muscles that control the tongue, lips, and jaw; however, the muscles, must have the strength and coordination to carry out the brain’s commands. The muscles in the lungs must be strong enough to control sufficient amounts of air while forcing the vocal cords to vibrate. The air must be going out, not in, for functional speech to occur. The vocal cords must be in good condition in order for one’s speech to sound clear and loud enough to hear. Our sense of hearing monitors and reviews what we say and hears new words to imitate and use in other situations. If we cannot hear clearly, we tend to reproduce sounds that are equally “mumbly.”Also, someone must be willing to communicate with us by listening and reacting to what we say, or there is no point in speaking. The process of developing speech occurs naturally. However, if there is a glitch or disruption in the process, it will affect one’s language. Language – Language is what we speak, write, read, and understand. Language is also communicating through gestures (body language or sign language). There are two distinct areas of language: receptive (what we hear and understand from others’ speech or gestures) and expressive (the words we use to create messages others will understand).
In order for children to begin using and understanding spoken language, they must:
• Hear well enough to distinguish one word from another.
• Have someone model what words mean and how to put sentences together.
• Hear intonation patterns, accents, and sentence patterns.
• Have the intellectual capability to process what words and sentences mean, store the information, and recall words and sentences heard previously when communicating an idea to someone else.
• Have the physical capability to speak in order for others to hear and understand the words they are saying.
• Have a social need and interest in using words to communicate with others.
• Have another person to positively reinforce their attempts at communication.
Children with receptive language problems may find listening and attending to conversation, stories, oral directions, classroom activities, etc. confusing and difficult at times. If a child’s receptive language doesn’t fully develop, the language learning process slows down before it ever begins. Parents tend to be concerned when their child isn’t talking the way they expect or in the way their same-age peers can talk. If this is happening, a speech-language pathologist will find out if the child is hearing clearly and understanding language (receptive language). If not, the child’s expressive language (meaningful speech) is not going to develop. This is why speech therapy focuses on strengthening a child’s receptive language, even if the concern is that the child isn’t talking properly. Bottom line – speech is the physical process of forming words; language is what speech creates – the output, or product. If your child is having difficulty developing speech and/or language skills, it is possible that he/she may also have weak listening skills – usually attributed to an inability to hear well. Strong listening skills are necessary in order to receive and develop sounds for speech and, subsequently, develop language for communication. Consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to evaluate your child’s development of speech and language if you feel that his/her skills are lacking or not developing at a normal* rate. The earlier an SLP can identify and begin treating a child’s speech and/or language problems, the less likely the problems will persist or get worse. Early speech and language intervention can help children be more successful with reading, writing, schoolwork, and interpersonal relationships. * Educators and therapists use the term “normal” as a generic statistical term to mean typical or average