Speech and language disorders can occur at any age, even from birth. It is difficult to identify them in children because they may not be able to communicate the problem. Knowing that they are affecting your child can help you understand and begin to manage or treat these challenges effectively. Proactive effort can help children stay on track in their learning and development.

Speech disorders and language disorders are not the same. It is possible that there is a correlation. Any person may have both a speech disorder and a language disorder. Or a person can have one and not the other.


Part one: What is a Speech Disorder?

If we think in terms of output, a speech disorder is a condition that affects one’s ability to produce words as speech in a way that can be understood by others. This category of conditions means that the person or the child, in this case, has trouble speaking and being understood.

In older children, stuttering is the most common speech disorder. Stuttering is a repetition or struggling to produce certain sounds. This makes it difficult for the speaker to get information across quickly. Other symptoms are problems with pitch, loudness, or quality of the sounds a person can produce.

Speech disorders may be caused by physical impairments or developmental disabilities. Some are hereditary. Many speech disorders have unknown causes.


Symptoms and signs

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association advises looking for these specific things:

  • 1-2 years old: Child has trouble correctly saying ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘m’, ‘h’, or ‘w’ sounds.
  • 2-3 years old: Child may have unclear speech, or trouble using ‘k’, ‘g’, ‘f’, ‘t’, ‘d’, and ‘n’ sounds.

If you notice these symptoms, exercise patience with your child. Give him plenty of time to talk. Do not interrupt or stop him while speaking.


What Can I Do to Help?

Continue speaking words with the correct sounds back to the child. Don’t parrot their sounds back to them. That could reinforce the condition or make the child feel like she is being mocked.

Don’t stress the child by over correcting them. The goal is to encourage him to speak more and gain valuable practice.


What is it Not?

Many people with speech disorders have no problem understanding or reasoning. It is important to keep this in mind, that the condition of not being able to produce understandable speech has no reflection on these children’s intellectual or cognitive ability.


Part two: What is a Language Disorder?

The other communication-related disorder is not a failure of producing sounds, but a difficulty understanding spoken or written words. This challenge is less physical and more cognitive.

If a child has autism, hearing loss, brain injury, brain tumors, stroke, dementia or other intellectual impairment, the child may have a language disorder. The child struggles to understand words spoken to them, which impairs their ability to talk in reply.


Symptoms and Signs

From birth and older, you can find these signs that may indicate an early language disorder.

  • Newborn-3 months: Child doesn’t smile or respond to others
  • 4-7 months: Child does not babble or try baby-talk
  • 6 months to a year: Child may only use limited sounds or gestures to communicate
  • 6 months to 2 years: Any apparent inability to understand that others say might be a problem.


What Can I Do to Help?

People may try to hide their disorders and eventually avoid reading, especially out loud. Some families may be unaware that a child has a language or speech disorder. Now that you know how to identify speech and language disorders, you should know what to look for.

Here are more things you can do:

  • Make sure you talk with, read to, play with and most importantly, listen to your child.
  • Describe activities, like what you or your child is doing, while you’re doing it.
  • Use longer sentences and a wide variety of words.
  • Make sure your child interacts with other children.

Remember to be patient with either of these two conditions. Stress makes it harder for them to build confidence.

If you do find that your child has a language disorder you may seek therapy from a qualified Speech and Language Pathologist, or SLP.


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