As children grow, there are certain milestones parents look forward to, such as crawling, walking and speaking. By their first birthday, most children know a word or two; at 18 months, their vocabulary should consist of five to 20 words and include simple two-word sentences. But these are rough guidelines. Every child progresses at a different pace.
Approximately one out of every four children experiences a speech delay, and most eventually catch up without any sort of intervention.
Still, it’s best to bring up any concerns with the child’s doctor. If there is a language disorder or developmental problem, early treatment is key to preventing learning problems down the road.
A variety of factors can lead to delayed speech and language skills. These include heredity, hearing loss, oral anatomy (problems with the tongue or soft palate), dysarthria (a disorder involving the muscles that control speech), exposure to multiple languages, neurological disorders (such as autism, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy), learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders, premature birth and environmental deprivation.
If the child’s doctor cannot rule out a speech delay, a speech-language pathologist should be consulted for a full evaluation. This involves a series of tests that will be used to assess the child’s receptive language and expressive language skills, sound development, speech clarity and oral-motor skills. Speech therapy may be recommended to help the child develop the skills necessary for effective communication.
Both heredity and environment play a role in speech development. There are steps parents can take to assist their child with speech development such as communicating often (talk and sing), encouraging verbal interaction whenever possible and reading to the child starting at a young age.
Call Prescott Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy at (928) 778-9190 for more information or to schedule an appointment.