Delayed speech or language development

Speech and language development is a vital part of any child’s development process. Delayed speech-language development might impact a child’s social interactions, behaviours patterns and academic success. 

How are speech and language different?

  • Speech: Verbal expression of language (the actual sounds)
  • Language: System of words and symbols to express and receive information

What is delayed speech and language development?

  • Language delays: A child with developmental language delay might pronounce the words in the right manner but isn’t able to put two words together or form a proper sentence 
  • Speech delays: Might use words and phrases to express ideas but are difficult to understand

Causes and risk factors:

There are no known causes for developmental speech-language delay. However, some experts believe that speech sound disorders can be a result of:

  • Motor-neurological disorders e.g., apraxia
  • Structural abnormalities e.g., cleft lip or other orofacial anomalies 
  • Sensory/perceptual disorders e.g., hearing impairment 
  • Premature birth/birth defects
  • Family history of developmental speech-language delay


Developmental speech-language delay usually requires speech-language therapy for alleviating symptoms. The earlier the intervention in the form of therapy starts the better are the results. The treatment plan usually depends on a child’s age and type and severity of the delay 

A comprehensive treatment plan is designed after assessments and evaluations by a speech-language pathologist. An SLP selects appropriate targets for therapy and treatment strategies based on the intervention goals to be addressed during sessions. Specialists such as Speech-language therapists, psychologists, behaviour-analysts and paediatricians most commonly work together to alleviate symptoms. 

How can I help my child? 

  • Ask questions from an SLP in order to understand the problems your child has.
  • Accompany your child during treatment.
  • Follow the suggestions your SLP makes.
  • Discuss your child’s situation at their school and with family members. 
  • Discuss your child’s progress with the SLP.
  • Try to speak calmly to your child.
  • Try to maintain a relaxed environment at home to reduce anxiety .
  • Don’t show impatience or irritation when your child is talking to you.
  • Try to minimize interruptions when your child is speaking.
  • Don’t bring attention to your child’s speech-language disorder.
  • Ask your child to put your instructions in their own words after giving an explanation or command.
  • Ask the teacher about class activities in advance to help prepare your child for discussions in advance.
  • Discuss your child’s situation at their school to avoid bullying.
  • Discuss your child’s situation with their teachers and with family members. 

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