–Elizabeth Thomas, MSc. (Audiology & Speech Rehabilitation), more than 22 years of Experience, Consultant at betserlife.com, Speaker at the ICAN conference for Autism, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 28-30 April 2023
As a professional specializing in speech and language development, I understand the challenges parents face when their children struggle to express themselves. It can be frustrating and stressful for both parents and children. But did you know that delayed speech and language development can also lead to behavioral issues in children? It’s essential to understand the importance of early intervention and how you can help your child reach their full potential.
Normal Speech and Language Development
Children follow a natural pattern in their speech and language development. They start communication by cooing and babbling at around 6 months, using eye contact, pointing, and gestures. By one year of age, they speak their first words and continue to learn new words, phrases, and sentences through positive interactions with their environment. While there is a normal age range for achieving speech and language milestones, some children may achieve them earlier or later. However, if your child hasn’t reached these milestones by the upper age limit, it may be considered a delay.
Causes of Delayed Speech and Language Development
Various factors can contribute to delayed speech, language, and communication development. It could be due to hearing impairment, being in the neuro-divergent spectrum, ADHD, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, excessive screen time, lack of adequate language stimulation at home, etc. As parents, it’s crucial to be aware of normal developmental milestones in children, so you can identify any signs of concern and consult a specialist for early intervention. Early identification and intervention are vital for helping your child reach their full potential.
Importance of Early Identification and Intervention
The first three years of a child’s life are crucial for speech and language development, as the brain is still developing and maturing during this period. In fact, around 80% of brain development is complete by this time. While some children may catch up on their own if they are “late talkers,” studies show that ~30% of children may need speech and language therapy to improve their communication difficulties.
Parents often listen to well-meaning relatives or even doctors and adopt a ‘wait and watch’ approach. It’s challenging to predict which children fall into this category, which is why it’s always safe to consult a speech-language pathologist as soon as you observe any developmental delays in your child. Any concerns from as young as 1 year, can be raised. This will ensure that you get the maximum benefit from the language development window.
Parents often provide children with books and toys that teach the alphabet and counting, but it’s important to focus on functional communication. Your child may be able to name cars, animals, and fruits, but struggle to communicate everyday needs. This can lead to using gestures and pointing to communicate their needs. Therefore, providing adequate language stimulation at home with a focus on functional communication is crucial, and parents play a pivotal role in this process.
If you notice any delay in your child’s speech and language skills, consult a speech pathologist as soon as possible for early intervention, who will also guide you to provide adequate language stimulation at home. With the right support and intervention, your child can make better progress and thrive in their communication skills. Invest in your child’s future by prioritizing their speech and language development today. Remember, it’s never too early to act.