Speech and Language Disorders
Children develop the sounds used in speech in a particular order. A speech delay is when a child does not have certain speech sounds by the expected age. For example 2-year-olds can typically use the ‘p’ sound but are not expected to use the ‘sh’ sound. Children with speech delay can be difficult to understand. Learn more here.
Children also develop language in a particular order. A language delay is when a child speaks clearly but does not use sentences and vocabulary in the way expected at their age. Learn more here.
Toddler Late Talking
The term late talker is used to describe children who have either not yet started talking when we would expect them to or are developing their speech skills and vocabulary at a slower rate then their classmates. It may also be called Speech Delay and is separate from a physical or developmental disorder of which a symptom may be Language Delay. Some children catch up on their own while others need speech and language therapy to help. The difficulty is there is no way of knowing which children will or will not catch up. The ‘wait and see’ approach may be used but this can delay help for children who will need speech therapy. Signs to look out for include:
- Behind in their vocabulary development
- Delayed development of sentence structure
- Can understand language at a noticeably higher level than speak it
Speech Sound Disorders
This umbrella term includes difficulties with any aspect of speech sound perception and production. They can be organic (of known cause) or functional (of unknown cause).
Individual speech sounds are produced with a distortion or substitution. An example of an Articulation Disorder is a lisp. Lisping distorts the ‘s’ sound.
A lisp is The different types of lisp are made depending on where the tongue is positioned when making the ‘s’ sound.
Frontal Lisp: the tongue tip is too far forwards causing a ‘th’ sound instead of ‘s’ or ‘z’.
Interdental Lisp: the tongue tip is protruding between the front upper and lower teeth which also produces a ‘th’ sound.
Lateral Lisp: the tongue tip is high causing air to flow over the sides of the tongue causing the sound of excess saliva.
Speech is developing with typical errors but the errors are lasting longer than they should. For example it is expected that a 3-year-old may say “wed” for red, but at 12-year-old should not.
Slurred, slow speech that happens when muscles or nerves have been damaged. Controlling movement of the tongue, lips, and jaw cause changes to the speech.
The brain is unable to send signals to the speech muscles of the tongue, lips, and jaw because of nerve damage. The child knows what they want to say but the brain cannot make the muscles do what they are told.
When a baby is born with a split in the roof of their mouth. There are different types of split, some involve the lip and are quite obvious while others are hidden within the mouth. More information is available here.
Hearing Loss and Speech
Children learn to talk by hearing sounds and words from those around them. Hearing loss means the child misses out on learning these sounds which affects their ability to use them. The result is a speech delay.
Conditions Affecting Speech and Language Skills
Social Communication Disorder
A language disorder with difficulties with verbal (talking) and nonverbal (body language) communication for social purposes. Eye contact, facial expression, and body language vary in different cultures and learning these are part of childhood development. This may arise in situations such as knowing how to change our responses appropriately if we are talking to a friend or to the teacher.
Children may have similar traits to Autism with specific characteristics that may include a very logical way of thinking, and black and white views and opinions.
ADHD / ADD
Affects a children’s concentration and activity levels. Impulsive behaviour and excessive fidgeting along with difficulty listening to instructions, organisations skills, and paying attention.
Caused when the brain is injured or when there is a problem with how the brain develops in infancy. Cerebral palsy symptoms range from mild to severe symptoms and affects muscle movements due to weakness or stiffness.
A genetic condition also known as Trisomy 21. Children with Down Syndrome have particular physical features in common which cause issues with talking and feeding. The roof of the mouth has a small narrow arch which gives the appearance of the tongue being too big. These children tend to be keen to to communicate and interact and can benefit from signing such as Lámh in Ireland and often have a speech delay..
Children with an intellectual disability can have developmental delay such as speech delay or take longer to learn. They do continue to learn at their own pace and may need support with problem solving and memory.
Dyslexia is when a child has difficulty with learning to read, write, and spell. It is an ongoing issue for the child that will continue in adulthood, but it is not a reflection on intelligence.
Selective Mutism is a rare anxiety disorder which causes children to have a phobia of speaking in certain social situations. This different to a speech delay or disorder. The speech phobia means the child refuses to speak rather than having a speech and or language disorder which interferes with talking.
A stutter also known as stammer, is a speech disorder where there are breaks in the flow of speech so speech does not flow. Stammering and stuttering tends to run in families and is more common in boys. See here for example of the different types of stammer.
Voice disorder, known as Dysphonia, is when the quality of a child’s voice is noticeably different. Hoarseness is particularly common in children and is usually related to how the child uses their voice, it can also be due to a viral infection like a cold.