Deciphering the ABCs of Speech Delays in Children

By DullesMoms, Oct 2023

From those first precious smiles to those wobbly first steps, each of your child’s milestones is a treasure. But what happens when your child’s speech development isn’t quite keeping pace with their other accomplishments?

While every child develops at their own pace, these subtle cues might indicate that your little one could use extra support in the communication department.

Limited Vocabulary for Age

Your child has a significantly smaller vocabulary compared to other children their age.

Expert Insight
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), most children have a vocabulary of 200 to 1,000 words by the age of two. If your child falls significantly below this range, it could indicate a speech delay.

Difficulty with Pronunciation

Your child consistently struggles to pronounce words or makes age-inappropriate articulation errors.

Expert Insight
It’s common for children to make pronunciation errors as they learn to speak, but if these errors persist beyond a certain age, it may indicate a speech delay. ASHA suggests that children should be mostly understandable to strangers by age three.

Limited Use of Expressive Language

Your child has difficulty expressing themselves verbally and relies heavily on nonverbal communication (e.g., pointing, gestures, or grunting).

Expert Insight
While nonverbal communication is a natural part of language development, a lack of expressive language, especially as children get older, may raise concerns about a potential speech delay.

Difficulty Following Directions

Your child consistently has trouble understanding and following simple verbal instructions.

Expert Insight
Struggling to comprehend and follow directions appropriate for their age can indicate a speech or language delay. Early language skills are closely tied to the ability to understand and follow instructions.

Limited Social Interaction

Your child avoids or has difficulty engaging in social interactions, such as conversations with peers or adults.

Expert Insight
Speech delays can sometimes affect a child’s social development. If your child appears isolated or has trouble connecting with others due to speech difficulties, it’s worth seeking professional guidance.

Regression in Speech Skills

Your child had started speaking but has regressed, losing previously acquired speech skills.

Expert Insight
Speech regression is a potential red flag and should be addressed promptly. It’s essential to consult with a speech-language pathologist if you notice this concerning sign.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you observe one or more of these signs in your child, it’s advisable to consult with a speech-language pathologist or pediatrician. Early intervention is key to addressing speech delays effectively.

These professionals can evaluate your child’s speech and language development, provide guidance, and recommend appropriate therapies or interventions if necessary.

Remember, every child is unique, and developmental timelines can vary. However, recognizing potential signs of speech delay and seeking professional guidance when needed can make a significant difference in your child’s language development journey.

Who Are the Experts?
They include the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?) and the Mayo Clinic (Speech Delay in Children: Symptoms & Causes).

Please note, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.