Does Your Preschooler Have a Speech or Language Delay?

It is estimated that 8 to 12% of all preschool children will have a disabling condition. Many of these children will have speech and language delays and disorders that may have a significant effect on their personal, social, academic and vocational life.

Language delays/disorders may be related to frequent middle ear infections (otitis media), hearing impairments, physical abnormalities (i.e. cleft lip/palate), neurological problems (i.e. traumatic brain injury), drug abuse syndromes or autism spectrum.

Language is often divided into content, form and use. Language content includes vocabulary development and the child’s understanding of single words. Language form means syntax which is a child’s which a child’s ability to use grammatical markers, subject verb agreement and to correctly use word order in context. Language use means appropriate social use of language affecting the child’s ability to engage in conversation while using appropriate eye contact and turn taking skills.

A child acquires language progressively through developmental stages. If a child achieves language milestones later that expected, it may be called delayed language development. If a child learns language out of a developmental sequence and it negatively impacts communication it is called a language disorder. Language disordered preschoolers can be identified by their limited vocabulary, improper use of words, grammatical errors, trouble understanding and following directions and difficulty understanding and engaging in conversation.

By 3 years of age a child’s speech (articulation) is normally 75-100% intelligible. The gradual process of acquiring adult speech patterns is called phonological development. The following sounds should be used correctly 75% of the time: h/y/n/ng/m/w/p/t/b/d/g/k.

How do I know if my child needs speech language therapy? To assist you further with symptoms for early identification and detection of a speech-language problem the following are some of the conditions to look for in your child:

My child has abnormal feeding and swallowing problems

My child gestures to communicate

My child does not play with other children

My child has trouble following directions

My child does not talk yet

My child’s speech is not clear; he/she has unintelligible speech patterns

My child has trouble expressing his/her ideas and asking or answering questions

My child stutters, has hesitations and sound repetitions

My child’s speech and language is different from that of his/her peers

Are you one of many parents who falsely believe “My child will grow out of this”?

When you consider the possible impact a speech and language problem may have on a person’s social, emotional and educational status, the answer becomes obvious. The quality of our life is affected by the adequacy of our speech. Your children need to be able to communicate effectively. Rely on your own judgment. If you think your child has a problem in the area of communication skills don’t hesitate to seek proper professional help (Speech-Language Pathologist). Remember you are the best expert on your own child’s development. Early identification of communication difficulties in children can prevent other problems from developing, such as difficult behaviors, learning difficulties and problems relating to and getting along with others.