Speech Delay

Disorders of speech and language are common, ranging from unclear speech or a slight delay in development to more significant difficulties associated with serious disorders. Children develop speech at different rates, but are usually talking by about 18 months of age. Prior to this time most children make cooing noises, babble and imitate sounds.

Symptoms of speech delay

  • There is no double syllable babble at a year
  • There are fewer than 6 words, or there is persistent drooling at 18 months
  • There are no 2- to 3- word sentences by 2 ½ years
  • Speech remains unintelligible by 4 years

Types of speech delay

The two main types of speech delay are expressive delay (the inability to generate speech) and receptive delay (the inability to decode or understand the speech of others). Children can also have a delay with a mix of both types (mixed expressive/receptive delay). Most children with speech delays have a developmental language disorder with an expressive delay; some children with an expressive delay are just 'late talkers' and have a constitutional delay in their speech development. These children will develop normal speech and language skills as they get older without any treatment. However, there is no way to differentiate whether a child has a constitutional delay or needs early intervention (speech therapy) so if you suspect that something is wrong, seek a formal hearing test and developmental assessment by your paediatrician.

It is worth pointing out that some of the most famous celebrities and politicians suffer from a type of speech delay. Actor Bruce Willis enrolled in a high school drama class as a way to overcome a debilitating stutter and found that the speech impediment disappeared when he performed; eminent 19th century scholar, writer, barrister and politician Macauley did not utter a word until he was 4; and Winston Churchill found that his slight stutter did not prevent him from becoming a renowned politician and orator.

How can Leaders are Readers help children with speech delay?

The teachers at Leaders are Readers are aware of the many things that they can do to improve a child's speech. The most effective way to help children to understand how language works is to read to children and encourage them to read. Our award-winning Reading programme teaches small children to read by using visual aids, blending skills and phonics pronunciation. By talking about the pictures and reading the words, children have the foundations for pre-reading skills such as page turning and memorising sounds.

We have also recently set up a Book Club, which runs from 11am – 11.30am. Here, children have the opportunity to participate in interactive storytelling, encouraging them to read aloud and listen to engaging stories that will help their language development. When children do read aloud or participate in class, they are given positive reinforcement, helping to make speaking exciting rather than stressful or frustrating.

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