“My son will be three in a couple of months and is still not talking. Will he ever…?” Some may answer that this is normal and kids will learn to talk when they are ready. However, not talking at 3 years is NOT typical. It could be nothing; just a "late talker", but it could be something… Some late talkers do outgrow this phase. Unfortunately, some don't! The problem is that it isn't always easy to know which child will outgrow it and which child will go on to have long-term difficulties. Good comprehension is certainly one of the factors that help us determine if the child will catch up - but it is not the only factor. We have to be aware that not all children are the same and, unfortunately, one late talker is not the same as another.
Child development is influenced by genetic factors (the genes passed on from their parents) and events during prenatal life, however it is also influenced by environmental factors and learning. Child development includes:
Milestones for speech and language development
If your child is not on track with the following speech/language development milestones, you should talk to his/her pediatrician. Here are the milestones to look for in normal speech development:
Red flags of speech, language and communication problems
A child's failure to reach speech and language milestones as expected may be a "red flag" or warning of a development problem. It does not necessarily mean there is a problem, but nevertheless, he or she should be evaluated by a health professional. Language delays include problems understanding what is heard or read (receptive language delays) or problems putting words together to express themselves (expressive language delays). Some children have both speech and language delays.
Red flags for a speech or language delay include:
Also talk to your health professional anytime you or another caregiver has concerns about your child's speech and language development or other problems that affect your child's speech or understanding of language, such as:
Other red flags include:
Why do speech and language problems develop in some children?
For most infants and children, language develops naturally beginning at birth. To develop language, a child must be able to hear, see, understand, and remember. Sometimes, there is a reason that a child has a speech and language problem. For instance, the child may have a language delay because of trouble hearing, central auditory processing disorder, or because of a developmental disorder such as autism, ADHD, etc. Often, there is not a clear cause. It is important to track your child's speech and language development. Many speeches and language problems can be overcome with treatment, especially when you detect the problems early.
What will a speech-language pathologist do?
According to the Malaysian Association of Speech and Hearing (MASH), a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist, as we are commonly known in Malaysia, is a qualified health professional specialising in assessing and providing therapy for people with communication disorders such as stuttering, speech-language difficulties and social skills issues. SLPs also work with patients who have feeding and swallowing difficulties due to a congenital condition or from other medical conditions such as stroke and cancer. SLPs are also involved with providing intervention for voice disorders. SLPs often specialise in different client groups or in terms of specific disorders. Some SLPs work mostly with children while others work only with adults. There are some who are able to do a mixed caseload as well. A SLP will have to do an initial assessment for all cases, regardless of whether it is an eating difficulty, voice issue or communication difficulties. This is to determine the patient’s baseline and identify if the patient requires therapy and, if so, which areas should therapy target first. Depending on what the results of the assessment are, the SLP will then recommend an intervention plan best suited to the patient. This can include:
What can parents do
Parents don't have to rely on the predictions of others or to guess that their child will be just like their friend's child and eventually catch up in language development. If you are concerned about your child's communication development or feeding skills, consult with a SLP. The SLP can administer tests of receptive and expressive language, analyse a child's utterances in various situations, determine factors that may be slowing down language development, and counsel parents on the next steps to take.
Here are some parenting tips for helping along your child’s speech, language and communication:
This article is contributed by Miss Nichahlini Sounderajan, Speech-Language Pathologist, B.Sc (Hons) Speech, Science National University of Malaysia from SI World. The company was established back in 2006 and to-date, they have 11 professional therapy centres nationwide. The company is committed to providing sensory integration therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy, which aim to help those with special needs achieve a better development both physically and psychologically. To learn more about the company, visit their website at http://www.siworld.com.my or find out where their branches are here.