It happens every day. Parents wait and wait for those first words, but they just don’t come. Other times, a child is already using words to communicate but parents have questions about whether or not their child’s skills are developing at a typical pace. After some time passes, parents may visit a pediatrician to share concerns about their child’s communication skills but are told to “wait and see” if their child will “outgrow” the problem.
Another child’s difficulties with communication may not become evident until after he or she begins school. Maybe your child’s teacher notices that he is having some difficulty in the classroom. He doesn’t seem to follow simple directions, answer questions when asked, or interact with his peers in the same way other children do. Unfortunately, more often than not, weeks or months may pass before a referral is made, a screening & evaluation is completed by a speech-language pathologist, and a child receives the intervention & support he or she needs. These are common scenarios that happen all too often.
Birth to 5 is a critical period for detecting communication difficulties & providing intervention, but studies show as many as 64% of parents are unaware of the early warning signs of speech & language disorders. Unfortunately, parents are not alone. Research shows that despite being one of the most common disorders of early childhood, communication disorders are also the least well detected among pediatricians. More often than not, valuable time is lost between the time a weakness is suspected and a child receives the assessment and intervention services he or she needs. We can do better.
Do You Know The Signs?
Signs of common speech and language disorders in children between birth to 4 years of age, an important stage in early detection of communication disorders:
Signs of a Language Disorder
- Does not smile or interact with others (birth and older)
- Does not babble (4-7 months)
- Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7-12 months)
- Does not understand what others say (7 months-2 years)
- Says only a few words (12-18 months)
- Words are not easily understood (18 months-2 years)
- Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5-3 years)
- Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2-3 years)
- Has trouble with early reading and writing skills (2.5-3 years)
Signs of a Speech Sound Disorder
- Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1-2 years)
- Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2-3 years)
- Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2-3 years)
Signs of Disfluency/Stuttering
- Struggles to say sounds or words (2.5-3 years)
- Repeats first sounds of words—”b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (2.5-3 years)
- Pauses a lot while talking (2.5-3 years)
- Stretches sounds out—”f-f-f-f-farm” for “farm” (2.5-3 years)
Signs of a Voice Disorder
- Uses a hoarse or breathy voice
- Uses a nasal-sounding voice
When To Contact a Speech-Language Pathologist
Almost everyone has a friend or family member who has concerns about their child’s communication development but doesn’t know what to do. Lack of knowledge is a huge barrier to reaching these children. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), speech-language pathologists report that it can be as long as two years before a speech or language delay in children is not only detected but also acted upon. Something needs to change.
If you have concerns about your child’s communication skills, contact a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible. You can visit http://www.asha.org/findpro/ to find a certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist in your community who can help. Early identification and intervention is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse the impact of communication disorders and give children the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Please visit www.identifythesigns.org or www.asha.org visit to learn more about the importance of early detection & intervention, then share this information with your friends & family. Building Blocks is committed to empowering parents & educators to help children build strong early communication skills by sharing resources & tips on communication, play, & social-emotional development. Take a moment to visit our blog-Babble On. Be sure to sign up to receive an e-mail notification when new information is posted on our blog so you can stay in the loop. Free resources to help your child learn & grow. What could be better than that?