Does Your Child Suffer From Delay in Speech Development?

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Many parents are very concerned if their children experience delays in physical, emotional or social development. As the delays could lead to permanent disability, it is always important to monitor a child’s speech development from an early age.

Speech disorder is one of the most common developmental difficulties. However, when a child is unable to produce speech sounds correctly at their speech learning stage, most parents often choose to adopt the ‘wait-and-see’ approach, thinking that their child will be able to catch up later.
 Nemours, a non-profit organisation devoted to children’s health,  suggested that this is because it is difficult to identify whether a child is just immature in his/her ability to speak or if he/she has a problem that requires professional attention.

The organisation drew a guideline of the speech developmental norm for children up to 3 years old. As the organisation suggested, parents can seek for an evaluation if they suspect their child has developed difficulties in speech learning. Parents should be able to understand at least half of a child’s speech when he/she reaches the age of 2. By the age of 3, about three-quarters of the speech should be understood, and a 4-year-old child will be able to make a stranger fully understand his/her speech.

There are many causes leading to the delay of a child’s ability to speak properly. Apart from ear infections and hearing disability, oral impairment is one of the physical causes that can affect a child’s speech development. Oral impairment refers to limited movement of the tongue that can affect speech production. Another common cause that may delay a child’s speech is oral-motor problems whereby the brain is less responsive in controlling the movement of lips, jaw, and/or tongue. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASH) is of the opinion that a child who has developed a motor speech disorder can be identified with symptoms including a child's delay in uttering his/her first word, not babbling as an infant, having long pauses in between making sounds and faces difficulty eating.

Children who have experienced trauma or emotional abuse can also develop defective speech abilities. The emotional abuse suffered by the children not only induces delayed speech but can also cause slurred, stuttering and stammering speech. Jennifer Fusco, a certified speech-language pathologist from Ohio thinks that a parent’s instinct that development is delayed or disordered is often correct. Therefore, whenever a parent suspects a delay in the child's development of speech, it is always helpful to bring their child to undergo an evaluation. The Encyclopedia of Child’s Health research shows that most of the speech disorder cases can nearly/completely be resolved with prompt treatment.

Parents play a highly important role in overcoming their children's problem in speech delays. Apart from spending more time to communicate with their children, selection and interaction with the child’s pathologist is also vital in assisting the child’s speech development. For those who do not know who a speech pathologist is, he/she is a certified clinician specialising in speech disorder. As there are many types of speech disorders, some pathologists specialise in specific areas according to the causes of the delay of speech. The selected pathologist has to be children-friendly and one who can communicate effectively with the child. During therapy sessions, parents should observe if their child feels comfortable interacting with the appointed pathologist.

The Hanen Centre, a Canadian charitable organisation, provided a guideline to choose the right therapist/pathologist by suggesting that he/she would always respect the parents and include them in any decision-making process. Instead of being told by the pathologist about what is the next best thing to do for their child, a good pathologist would ensure that the parents are treated as a partner throughout the child's treatment process.

Author: Tey Sze Chze

Copyright © 2013 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (JANUARY 2013)

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