What causes speech and language problems?
- Developmental speech and language disorders are a common reason for speech/language problems in kids. These learning disorders are caused by the brain working differently. Your child may have trouble producing speech sounds, using spoken language to communicate, or understanding what other people say. Speech and language problems are often the earliest sign of a learning disability.
- Hearing loss is often overlooked, and easily identified. If your child is speech/language delayed, their hearing should be tested.
- Extreme environmental deprivation can cause speech delay. If a child is neglected or abused and does not hear others speaking, they will not learn to speak.
- Prematurity can lead to many kinds of developmental delays, including speech/language problems.
- Auditory Processing Disorder describes a problem with decoding speech sounds. These kids can improve with speech and language therapy.
- Neurological problems like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury can affect the muscles needed for speaking.
- Autism affects communication. Speech/language/communication problems are often an early sign of autism.
- Apraxia of speech is a specific speech disorder in which the child has difficulty in sequencing and executing speech movements.
- Selective mutism is when a child will not talk at all in certain situations, often school.
How can I tell if my child has a language problem or is just “late-bloomer”?
It can be difficult for a parent to tell whether a child is a late bloomer or has hearing loss, an expressive language disorder or other underlying cause of speech delay. A trained specialist will be able to help you determine if your child is experiencing speech or language delays. The earlier your child gets help, the greater their progress will be. And if they turn out to be a late bloomer, the extra attention to their speech will not have hurt in any way.
Treatment for speech and language delays
It is important to identify speech/language problems early, so your child can begin treatment. Treatment should begin as soon as possible. Research shows that children know a lot about language long before the first word is ever said. If your child needs treatment, it should be developmentally appropriate and individualized. Your child’s treatment team might include a doctor, an audiologist, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, and/or a social worker.
Non-verbal ways to communicate with children
Children who are nonverbal, or not communicating well enough due to hearing loss, autism, apraxia, or similar problems, can use other methods. These include sign language, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and Augmentative and Alternative Communication.