Helping Child to Cope With Speech Delays

Do you think that your child may be suffering from speech delay? Identifying and treating speech disorder at right time can prove to be very helpful. Here are some tips to encourage your child to start speaking.

Helping Child to Cope With Speech Delays

Watching your child grow during the early years can be both wonderful and a nerve-wracking experience. One of the common worries every parent has is when will their child start to speak. Read on to find out whether you should be concerned about your child's silence and how to help him to start speaking. 

Ten percent of children have delays in starting to speak. Some of the most common causes for a delay in speech could include being a twin and overall slow development. Twins are known to be able to communicate effectively with each other in 'twin talk'. This is a language of gestures and body language that delays the need to actually develop language skills. Children who live in bilingual homes may also take more time to pick up a language. 

In severe cases, speech delays may be caused by mental retardation or autism. Speech delays can have far-reaching effects. It may have an impact on the child's social, academic or vocational life.

Normal speech progression 

One-year-old children start by learning to speak simple words like mama and dada. By the second year, their vocabulary skills increase to approximately ten to twenty words. They can point to objects when the word associated with them is spoken. Their cognition skills will have developed to a stage where they can recognise familiar people. The normal flow of speech development is from initial cooing, babbling, echolalia (instant repetition of sounds made by others), jargon (incoherent and meaningless talk), to proper words and word combinations resulting in sentence formation.

Types of speech delay disorders 

Speech disorders can be caused due to problems in articulation. Another type of disorder would involve the quality of the voice or its volume. Children may have a minor break in the rhythm or flow of delivery or may even have a more serious stutter. Speech delays can also be due to hearing loss. Some key factors maybe: 

Maturation delay: Maturation delay is one of the main causes for speech delay. 

Here, the central neurological process in the brain required to produce speech takes time to develop. This late-bloomer effect is more common in boys. Most children who have speech delays due to maturation begin to speak by the time they have to join school. 

Expressive language disorder: This is when a child is perfectly alright in terms of skills of articulation and normal intelligence, has no hearing problems, and has good emotional relationships. The child has a problem in converting ideas into speech, thus having a problem in expressing himself. This child will use gestures extensively to express himself. The difference between maturation and expressive language disorder is that a child suffering from the former may develop his speech skills without any intervention while a child suffering from the latter requires assistance. 

Elective mutism: This is a unique condition where though the child can speak, he chooses not to. When left on his own or with his friends, the child will talk. However, in the presence of strangers or in public, he will refuse to speak. A child who suffers from elective mutism is shy, timid, and withdrawn. Causes for this could be poor peer relations or being over dependent on parents.

Ways to encourage your child to speak 

In order to ensure that your child picks up a language and starts speaking a few words, it is essential to give him some motivation and assistance. Here are few tips to give your child a helping hand in developing his vocabulary.

Communicate with your child as often as possible. Even during infancy, keep talking to him and singing. Encourage him to imitate your gestures. 

Read to your child. These books should be age appropriate. For example, reading picture books to him will help build associations between pictures and words. 

Understand your child's interests. Children have more ways than words to tell us what they are interested in. Understanding your child's body language and the signs that he is giving will help you identify what his interests are. Watch his eye movements. Once you understand what holds his interest, then you can talk to him about it. Try to get him to respond to your actions or comments using words. 

Always try to explain why something may be wrong. If your child is playing with a puzzle and tries fitting a square piece into a circular slot then explain to him the properties of the square and that it doesn't fit. These explanations need to be at the child's level verbally. Imitate his movements and, when he uses incomplete phrases, repeat the complete one. For example if he says 'Ca' for car then frame a sentence with the word car to reinforce the right pronunciation. 

Encourage your child to speak. Do not monopolise the conversation into a one-sided tirade. Instead ensure that your child contributes to the dialogue no matter what kind of sounds he makes. 

Stay at your child's level of comprehension. If your child uses a maximum of one word, then ideally you should frame simple sentences with not more than two words. 

Use gestures to give visual cues while saying things. You will notice that children themselves use signs to identify objects before they can speak. This helps both ways. It helps parents to understand what the child is trying to convey along with enforcing what the parent wants to say. Pairing of words and signs is important to ensure that a relationship is built up. Repetition of the word will add the final touch in ensuring the child learns the new word or phrase.