As a parent, it can be natural to worry or fret that your child isn't reaching milestones at the same rate as his or her peers. With more and more children attending daycare centers and preschools where they're exposed to many other children in the same age group, any developmental differences can seem even more apparent, although there's little to no evidence to show that a child who hits certain milestones early will be taller, faster, stronger, or more intelligent later in life.
Despite this, there are some situations in which speech delays or speech troubles may indicate a larger problem. Read on to learn more about when you can chalk up speech delays to normal development and when you may want to seek the services of a speech pathologist.
When a "Wait and See" Approach is Fine
Although most children will begin babbling or speaking short words (like "mama" or "dada") before their first birthday, others are slower to develop these skills. And even toddlers may not be able to enunciate well enough to be understood by anyone but a parent or immediate family member. But as long as your child is communicating with you in a way you understand and is responding to your communications, it's likely that any delays in speech milestones or even speech impediments (like lisping or dropping certain consonant sounds) will resolve themselves before your child begins attending school.
Younger siblings may seem advanced in many ways, as they have the benefit of older siblings to show them how to walk, run, and interact with adults. But when it comes to language skills, many younger siblings can be slow to speak, in part because their older siblings are so good at responding to unspoken needs or wants that they never need to be articulated. Boys also tend to be slower to speak than girls, although these gender-based differences tend to resolve by the time school starts.
When Intervention May Be Needed
Some speech delays aren't limited to speech but are indicative of a larger communication problem. If your child doesn't respond to you, doesn't get frustrated when you don't understand (or quickly respond) to his or her commands, or shows speech regression rather than speech progression, this could be a sign of a bigger issue. These delays could be attributable to hearing loss, middle ear infections, autism spectrum disorders, or a host of other often-treatable causes. Seeking out the services of a speech pathologist can help you find some answers.
For more information, contact a medical office like Eastern Carolina Ear Nose & Throat-Head.