What is a Speech-Language Disorder?
First, let’s define the vocabulary often used when we, speech-language pathologists, refer to communication disorders commonly diagnosed in young children.
- Speech Sound Disorder is used when sound errors persist past a certain age and can be due to an articulation (making sounds) and/or phonological process (sound patterns). Every sound has different range of ages when a child should produce the sound correctly.
- Language Disorder is used when a person has difficulty understanding and speaking. This often results in the inability to follow directions, asking/answering questions, naming objects, or appropriate social interaction with others.
- Stuttering Disorder is used when disruptions impede communication during the production of speech sounds regularly.
Of the three listed above, the most prevalent, speech sound disorders, occurs in almost 10 percent of children and noticeably persists in 5 percent of preschoolers. Next is language disorders, with an occurrence of 6 to 8 million people in the U.S., and stuttering follows close behind with 70 million worldwide.
What are the Early Signs of a Speech-Language Disorder?
Use this quick list of red flags below to identify if your child may demonstrate speech and/or language difficulties.
- If your child says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words at 1–2 years old
- If your child says k, g, f, t, d,and n incorrectly in words at 2–3 years old
- If your child has speech that is unclear, even to familiar people at 4-5 years old
- If your child doesn’t smile or interact with others at birth–3 months
- If your child doesn’t babble at 4–7 months
- If your child makes few sounds at 7–12 months
- If your child does not use gestures (e.g., waving, pointing) at 7–12 months
- If your child doesn’t understand what others say at 7 months–2 years
- If your child only says a few or no words 12–18 months
- If your child doesn’t put words together to make sentences at 1½–3 years
- If your child has trouble playing and talking with other children at 2–3 years
- If your child has problems with early reading and writing skills—for example, may not show an interest in books or drawing at 2½–3 years
- If your child struggles to say sounds or words at 2½–3 years
- If your child repeats first sounds of words—”b-b-b-ball” for “ball” at 2½–3 years
- If your child pauses a lot while talking at 2½–3 years
- If your child stretches sounds out—”f-f-f-f-farm” for “farm” at 2½–3 years
I suspect my child may have a Speech-Language Disorder, what should I do?
Speech and language development is a useful indicator of a child’s later school success. Early detection and intervention offers the most promising chances of improvement. Preschoolers with speech and language delays are at greater risk for learning disabilities, reading & writing difficulties, and academic problems.
If your child is younger than 3 years old and you suspect he or she may have a communication disorder, access to a FREE speech-language evaluation is provided via your state’s early intervention program. In Georgia, this is called Babies Can’t Wait, and each county is responsible for evaluating and treating the children within their respective county. If your child is three years old or older, your local school district also offers FREE evaluations.
Atlanta Speech Therapy supports families in their journeys towards accessing public services and doing so to ensure equity in your child’s education and health needs.
References: American Speech-Language Hearing Association, National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, North Georgia Health District