Speech and Language Issues2 MINUTE READ

How to Tell if Your Child Has a Speech Delay

Parents and caregivers often ask the question “What’s normal?” when it comes to their child’s speech and language development.

Truth be told, determining whether your child is just a "late bloomer" or needs professional help isn’t always easy. All children progress at different rates, and there is a wide range of what’s considered “normal.”

However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) shares these common signs for children between the ages of 18 and 30 months that may put them at risk for a speech or language problem.

3 signs of a speech delay

1 Trouble understanding language:

Many children are able to understand basic commands and language prior to using actual words. If your child seems to be receptive to language, pointing to objectives by name, for example, or following simple instructions, they're more likely to catch up with their peers. If you think they’re not able to grasp what others are saying, there is a chance that their comprehension is behind. Given that children must understand language before they can use it, this would be likely to lead to a delay.

2 Not using gestures:

Even if your child isn’t speaking yet, actively using gestures is a good sign they're simply a late bloomer. Gestures can include waving “hi,” pointing to food or an item they want, or raising their arms so you will pick them up. If your child is not using gestures, there’s a higher likelihood there could be a problem.

3 Not learning or using new words:

Between this age range, children should be progressing in their language development by regularly using new words. They should also be starting to string words together to make simple phrases or ask questions. Even if your child is slower to talk than their peers, using gestures is a good sign they’re on the right path. However, if you don’t hear new words often, this may be a sign of a speech or language delay.

You can learn more about expected developmental milestones for young toddlers in our articles covering 1- and 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds.

What should you do if you think your child has a speech delay?

Research in speech and language disorders has demonstrated that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes. If you think your child may be struggling, consider scheduling an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist.

A speech therapist is best equipped to evaluate your child, discuss any questions or concerns you have, and provide professional guidance on whether or not your child should be enrolled in an early intervention program to receive speech therapy. Helping your child learn to communicate clearly and confidently will have a positive effect on their social, academic, and emotional development.

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