Skip to content

My child understands everything, but isn't talking yet. A parent's guide to speech delay

 I. Introduction

When my son was 18 months old, I noticed that he understood everything I said, but he did not respond with words. He would follow directions, point to objects, and even gesture to communicate, but he did not speak. This led me on a journey to understand speech delay and find ways to support my child. If you are experiencing something similar, this guide will help you navigate the world of speech delay and give you helpful tips to encourage your child's speech development.

Speech delay is a common phenomenon, but it's important to address it early. With the right support and intervention, your child can overcome speech delay and reach their full communication potential. In this guide, we will discuss what speech delay is, its common causes and how you can support your child through this difficult time.

II. Understanding speech delay

Understanding speech delay A. Definition and types of speech delay

Speech delay, also known as language delay, is a type of communication disorder where a child does not develop speech and language skills at the expected age. There are three main types of speech delay:

Expressive language delay: This occurs when a child has difficulty expressing themselves through speech. Expressive language speech is a form of speech impediment.

Receptive language delay: In this case, a child has difficulty understanding spoken language. He or she may be able to speak, but does not understand the meaning of what he or she hears.

The child may be able to understand what he or she is saying, but cannot understand what he or she is saying: This type of speech delay involves challenges with both comprehension and expressive language.

B. Common causes of speech delay

There are several reasons why a child may have a speech delay, including

Hearing loss or damage: Hearing problems can make it difficult for a child to learn and understand speech, leading to speech delay.

Autism spectrum disorder: Children with autism often have communication problems, which may include speech delay.

Speech apraxia: This is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for the child to coordinate the movements required for speech.

Developmental disorders: Some children with intellectual disabilities or other developmental disorders may have a delay in speech.

Environmental factors: Lack of exposure to language, poor quality interactions or high levels of stress may contribute to speech delay.

C. When to worry about speech delay 

speech delay in toddlers 

It is important to monitor your child's speech development and know the typical speech milestones. If your child is not meeting these milestones, it is vital to consult a professional to determine if intervention is needed. Some signs of speech delay include:

  • Not babbling until 12 months
  • No single words until 16 months
  • Does not use two-word phrases until 24 months
  • Difficulty understanding simple instructions until 2 years of age
  • Difficulty communicating effectively by age 3 years 

III. Supporting your child with speech delay
A. Consult a speech and language therapist (SLP)

If you suspect that your child has a speech delay, it is important to consult a speech and language pathologist (SLP) as soon as possible. Early assessment and intervention can significantly improve your child's communication skills and overall development. During the evaluation, the SLP will assess your child's speech, language and cognitive abilities to determine the best course of action.

B. Tips for encouraging speech at home 

In addition to working with an SLP, there are several strategies you can implement at home to encourage your child's speech development:

Create a language-rich environment: surround your child with opportunities to listen and engage in language. Talk to him throughout the day, narrate your actions and engage him in conversations, even if he doesn't respond verbally.

Use clear and simple language. Speak slowly and clearly and avoid using complex phrases or idioms.

Encourage imitation and repetition: model correct speech for your child by repeating his or her attempts at words and phrases with the correct pronunciation. Encourage your child to imitate your speech by asking him to repeat simple words or phrases after you.

Read and sing to your child: Reading books and singing songs with your child exposes them to a wide range of vocabulary and language structures. Choose books with repetitive phrases and rhyming words and encourage your child to join in when he or she can.

Use gestures and sign language. This can reduce frustration and encourage verbal communication as they gain confidence in their ability to express themselves.

Reinforce speech efforts: Reward and reward your child's attempts to communicate, even if their speech is not perfect. Show enthusiasm and excitement when he tries to speak, as this will motivate him to keep trying.

C. Coping with emotional and social challenges

speech delay in toddlers Children with a speech delay may face emotional and social challenges as a result of their communication difficulties. It is important to address these challenges and support your child's emotional well-being:

Building self-esteem and confidence: encourage your child to try new things and praise their efforts, even if they don't succeed. This will help build his self-esteem and confidence in his abilities.

Promote social interaction: Organize games and activities with other children to help your child develop social skills and practice communication. Encourage him to participate in group activities, such as sports or clubs, where he can build friendships and learn to work with others.

Encourage independence: teach your child to complete tasks independently and give him/her opportunities to make choices. This will help them develop a sense of autonomy and confidence in their abilities. 

IV. Exploring treatment options

speech delay in toddlers A. Speech therapy techniques

Speech and language therapy can be a key component of supporting a child with a speech delay. Some common speech therapy techniques include:

Articulation therapy: This focuses on improving the child's ability to produce specific speech sounds. The therapist will use various techniques, such as modeling, auditory bombardment, and targeted practice, to help the child master each sound.

Language intervention activities: These activities aim to develop the child's vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure. The therapist may use storytelling, games, or other engaging activities to teach new language concepts.

Oral-motor therapy: For children with speech delays related to muscle weakness or poor coordination, oromotor therapy can help improve the strength and control needed for speech. The therapist may use exercises, massage and other techniques to target the muscles involved in speech production. 

B. Alternative methods of communication

speech delay in toddlers language-skills-assessment-test-4-5-years 

In some cases, alternative methods of communication can be beneficial for children with speech delays:

Sign language: Teaching sign language can help your child communicate more effectively while continuing to work on speech development.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices: These devices, such as picture boards or speech-generating devices, can help children with speech delays express themselves more easily. 

C. Support services and resources

There are a variety of support services and resources available to help children with speech and language delays and their families:

Early intervention programs: these programs provide assessments, therapies, and other supportive services for young children with developmental delays or disabilities, including speech delays. Early intervention can make a significant difference in a child's long-term communication skills and overall development.

Special education services in schools: If your child's speech delay is affecting his or her ability to succeed in school, he or she may be eligible for special education services, including speech therapy, adaptations, and individualized education plans (IEPs).

Support groups and online communities: Connecting with other parents who have children with speech delays can provide emotional support, encouragement and practical advice. Look for local support groups or online forums where you can share experiences, tips and resources.

V. Conclusion
Navigating the challenges of speech delay can be difficult for both parents and children. However, with patience, perseverance, and the right support, your child can overcome these challenges and reach his or her full communicative potential. It is important to stay positive and celebrate your child's progress and milestones, no matter how small they may seem. By working with professionals, implementing helpful strategies at home and accessing support services, you can help your child develop the speech and language skills he or she needs to thrive.

Original content from the Upbility writing team. This article, in whole or in part, may not be republished without attribution to the publisher.

You can also read:

Suggested Books on speech therapy:   

Previous article Gross motor skills: A comprehensive guide