Delays in language are the most common types of developmental delay. One out of 5 children will learn to talk or use words later than other children their age. Some children will also show behavioral problems because they are frustrated when they can’t express what they need or want.
Simple speech delays are sometimes temporary. They may resolve on their own or with a little extra help from family. It’s important to encourage your child to “talk” to you with gestures or sounds and for you to spend lots of time playing with, reading to, and talking with your infant or toddler. In some cases, your child will need more help from a trained professional, a speech and language therapist, to learn to communicate.
As a parent, follow your instincts. If you continue to have concerns about your child’s development, ask for a reevaluation or referral for additional formal testing.
Here are a few ways to encourage speech development at home:
- Spend a lot of time communicating with your child.Even during infancy — talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.
- Start reading when your child is a baby. Look for age-appropriate soft or board books or picture books that encourage kids to look while you name the pictures. Try starting with a classic book (such as Pat the Bunny, in which your child imitates the patting motion) or books with textures that kids can touch. Later, let your child point to recognizable pictures and try to name them. Then move on to nursery rhymes, which have rhythmic appeal. Your little one may even start to memorize favorite stories.
- Use everyday situations.To reinforce your child’s speech and language, talk your way through the day. For example, name foods at the grocery store, explain what you’re doing as you cook a meal or clean a room, point out objects around the house, and as you drive, point out sounds you hear. Ask questions and acknowledge your child’s responses (even when they’re hard to understand). Keep things simple, but avoid “baby talk.”
- Recent studies have identified a relationship between speech delay and the use of devices like cell phones.
It isn’t a matter of anything specific that triggers this, but cell phones may have a lot of the responsibility. We often compare our own children with other people, especially in terms of their development, like whether mine is already crawling or if yours learns to walk first. However, these activities are acquired at a common life stage.
Recognizing and treating speech and language delays early on is the best approach. With proper therapy and time, your child will be better able to communicate with you and the rest of the world.
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.
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