Language Delay in Children

by Care Speech 
25 January 2022

What is language delay?

Children with language delay have difficulties understanding and speaking compared to other children of the same age. Language delay is the most common type of developmental delay. Although some language delays can be associated with specific conditions such as hearing loss, often language delays can occur on their own. It can be helpful to know what to expect from your child by looking at milestones for a child of that age. Some signs of language delay, depending on the age of the child, may include:

  • Not paying attention when someone is speaking
  • Being slow to say their first word
  • Using gesture instead of words
  • Not answering questions
  • Struggling to follow instructions
  • Having a small vocabulary
  • Not putting words together
  • Struggling to find the right words or tell a story

Treatment for language delay

Parents working with a Speech Pathologist can assist their child to improve their language skills and become an effective communicator. Whilst we can’t predict the outcomes of therapy (because every child is so different!) we can guarantee that you will see progress when your child is given the correct support.

  • For younger children, or late talkers, the Speech Pathologist will teach you about language facilitation strategies that you can use at home to encourage your child to use their words. At this age children are learning about language all day every day – so you will be their best teachers! The Speech Pathologist will check in with you regularly to find out how the language facilitation is going so far and to provide you with new strategies.
  • For older children, the parts of language that are most difficult for your child (e.g. pronouns, verbs, past tense, etc) can be identified using a formal language assessment. From there, these skills can be explicitly taught by the Speech Pathologist during regular therapy sessions. These skills can then be reinforced at home using homework tasks and positive reinforcement.

In both cases, parents play an important role in supporting the language development of their child and make a big difference in the success of the therapy.

What is the difference between language delay and speech delay?

It is common for a language delay to be mistaken for a speech delay – however they are quite different. Children with a speech delay can understand and use language normally for a child of their age, but may be difficult to understand due to having unclear articulation. This can also be treated by a Speech Pathologist, but a very different therapy approach will be used.

Communicating with children with language delay

While not replacing individualised therapy, there are few things you can do today to start supporting your child with language delay. When communicating with your child make sure to:

  • Have their attention – ensure you have their full attention by getting down to their eye level, facing them, saying their name or gently placing your hand on their shoulder.
  • Use simple messages – try to convey your message as simply as possible by speaking in short phrases or sentences with an emphasis on the key pieces of information.
  • Support your message with gestures – use body language and gestures to support what you are saying with your words by shaking or nodding your head, shrugging, pointing, changing your facial expression, giving thumbs up or down, and many more.

If you would like to book an initial consultation with a Speech Pathologist from our team, please contact us on 1300 086 280 or at [email protected].

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