Let’s begin this discussion about the signs of speech and language delay in children with one word of warning and common sense: Every part of childhood development happens with a range of time and not always according to a fixed calendar or time table. If your 12 month old child is not vocalizing in the way that a friend’s child is vocalizing, it does not mean there is a problem in speech or language.
Keep the entire “range” in mind when you are monitoring your child’s development, and remember that the experts define the ranges this way:
- Before 12 months
- Between 12 and 15 months
- Between 18 to 24 months
- From two to three years
- Three and up
As you may have noticed, there is attention given more to the period leading up to the third year and then the emphasis on speech and language development decreases. This is because those first years are among the most important where this phase of human development is concerned.
If you are interested in knowing how to gauge a child throughout this period, we would advise tracking some of the following behaviors or patterns:
- Does the way that the child speaks or communicates seem radically different from the majority of other children? While the first two years of life may not be an ideal measure of this, as a child begins to be socialized it is important to gauge if they are speaking in a way that is very different from peers. This is especially true if children and adults struggle to understand the child.
- Does your child seem to get frustrated far too easily while socializing or playing with others? Is it because they are unable to speak or talk to their peers? Are they struggling with listening? Perhaps it is a hearing related issue, and this is something to always keep in mind. Some children are mistakenly labeled as having speech delay until their hearing is tested and a hearing problem is discovered. If a child seems very upset whenever they are around other kids who are speaking, be sure it is not hearing related.
- Does the child seem to “block out” others or show disinterest in interaction? This is a sign that speech may be a problem. Disinterest grows out of being unable to comprehend. The other side of this is anger. When a child shows signs of either response in relation to words or speech, it could be a language delay issue.
- Does the child use hitting, biting, or violence rather than speaking? Don’t fool yourself into believing this is entirely an emotional or behaviour issue. Many kids react this way because they are just overwhelmed and too challenged by words and speech.
- Does the child point and use single words instead of proper sentences. A toddler is likely to point to the door and say “out” or “door” while the older child should be saying “I want to go out”. If a child is over the age of three and still using gestures and single words, it may be an indicator of language delay.
- If a child is showing signs of struggle whenever they are given spoken instructions or directions it is often because they are unable to comprehend what is being said. Watch to see if your child is observing hand gestures and mimicking others…if so, they may be dealing with speech delay.
Never panic over the signs of delayed speech as there are many resources available. Many children seem to struggle with speech and then suddenly flourish. With the help from a speech and language pathologist, most speech issues are able to be overcome.
If you have concerns about the signs of speech and language delay in children, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist.
- Kids Health. “Delayed Speech or Language Development.” 2013. Kids Health.