Insight Comprehensive Therapy – May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, an annual time established by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in 1927 to raise awareness about communication disorders and treatment options that are available to improve lives. According to the ASHA, five to ten percent of Americans have a communication disorder, which includes the inability to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language).
Communication disorders are also one of the most common childhood disabilities. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that nearly 1 in 12 U.S. children ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with a voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorder each year. The rates of these disorders are highest among children between the ages of 3 and 6, dropping at older ages. Boys and black children are also more likely to be diagnosed with a communication disorder, according to data from the NIDCD.
Learning your child may have a communication disorder can be daunting and confusing, but it is important to remember that most diagnoses are highly treatable with early intervention. Yet many parents either do not know the common signs to watch for or are hesitant to have their child evaluated. Speech and language specialists recommend parents educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of common communication disorders, especially in the early developmental years. When left untreated, these disorders can lead to problems with reading and writing, behavioral issues, difficult social interactions, and other concerns at school. To help you be informed and encourage you to think about speech development, here are eight signs your child may need to see a speech-language pathologist.
It is common for babies to start babbling before they start talking at 4 to 7 months. This is how they experiment with sounds, express their needs, and build oral-motor skills. After a baby starts learning words and how to use them successfully, they will eventually be able to understand what other people are saying and begin communicating back and forth. If your baby seems unusually quiet and is not experimenting with sounds, this could be a sign of a communication disorder.
Not Responding to Names
One of the earliest and most common signs of a communication disorder is a child’s inability to respond to his or her name. In many children this may be related to an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, but it is also a likely sign of a hearing or receptive language issue. An evaluation with a speech-language pathologist will be able to determine the root of the child’s developmental issue and refer parents to the appropriate specialists for treatment.
Problems with Verbal Requests
Children should be able to understand simple spoken words, questions, and directions between 12 and 24 months. If your child is having difficulty comprehending your verbal requests, such as “pick up your toys,” and shows frustration at their inability to complete the task, it could be a sign he or she is having difficulty processing and expressing language. A speech therapist can assess your child’s needs and work with them to improve their verbal language and expression abilities.
The inability to speak or speak in one-word sentences is another common sign a child has a communication disorder. By age two, children should start putting words together to form sentences. If your child is not using sentences or is having difficulty remembering words, it could be a sign of a condition such as developmental expressive language disorder. If the child refuses to speak, whispers or uses non-verbal cues in certain social situations, they could be experiencing a condition called selective mutism, social anxiety, or even trauma.
Stuttering is a well-known communication disorder in children, characterized by the repetition of a word’s first letter, difficulty articulating sentences, and repeating phrases. For example, the word “mommy” may sound like “m-m-m-mommy” when a child has a stutter. In some children, stuttering will go away on its own. However, if the stutter worsens, is severe, or if the child is over age five, it is recommended that they see a speech-language pathologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Errors in Early Word Use
It is not uncommon, especially for young children, to use the same word to refer to many things. For example, a child may use the word “truck” when referring to any type of toy. However, when this continues past 12 months, it could be a sign of a communication disorder. A speech therapist can help children grow their vocabularies and express themselves with the right words.
Another speech-language disorder parents often encounter in young children is the swapping of consonant sounds in words. For example, “this” becomes “dis.” Although many children will outgrow mispronunciation, it should be addressed immediately to avoid later issues with communication and academic performance. Speech therapists can help children learn how to make sounds, move their mouths and tongues, and learn to tell when a sound is incorrect.
As children develop speech and start to understand the differences between sounds and how they are used, instances of unclear speech are expected. However, you and others should be able to mostly understand your child’s speech by age four. A speech-language pathologist will be able to determine if your child has an articulation disorder where they are unable to make certain sounds or a phonological process disorder, which is a pattern of sound mistakes.
If your child is showing any of these signs or has other speech, language, or hearing issues you are concerned about, it is important to speak with your child’s pediatrician or a speech and language specialist as soon as possible. Our team at Insight Comprehensive Therapy can help people of all ages with a wide range of communication disorders. Contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule an appointment.
Q: Is a referral from a primary care provider required to see a speech-language pathologist?
A: In most cases, a referral is not required to see a speech-language pathologist. However, a child’s pediatrician is often a good starting point if your child is not meeting speech, language, and hearing milestones.
Q: At what age should speech therapy begin?
A: Speech therapy should begin as soon as you notice your child is not meeting his or her speech and language milestones. Babies can begin to show signs of developmental delays as early as three months of age and it is never too early to begin monitoring signs of communication disorders. At Insight, we offer speech therapy services for children ages 3 and up.
Q: Can speech disorders be cured?
A: Although there is no cure for most speech disorders, they are highly treatable and many will go away with the help of a qualified speech-language pathologist and early intervention.