Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services

Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services

Like any skill and milestone children will develop at different stages. Knowing a bit about speech and language development in children can help parents and carers know if there is anything to be concerned about and when to seek support

What is the difference between speech and language?

Speech is verbal communication and includes articulation (or pronunciation). Speech is about how clear we sound to others when talking. Speech can also be impacted by rate, volume and pitch. 

Language refers to a system used to communicate meaning. It can include spoken or written words and symbols, plus hand and body gestures e.g. Auslan. Language is how we use words in order to communicate our wants and needs, share ideas and interact with others.

What are speech and language delays or disorders?

Whilst children develop speech and language at different rates, there are certain skills that typically emerge by certain ages. When a child isn’t developing speech and language at an expected rate, it may be indication of a delay or disorder. A child may have difficulty with speech, language or both. “Speech and language impairment is common and studies have found that it affects up to 1 in 4 Australian preschool children”  said Amy Turner, Chief Operating Officer Youthrive. 

Signs and symptoms of a delay or disorder

A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or vocalise should be checked by a doctor right away. But often, it’s hard for parents to know if their child is taking a bit longer to reach a speech or language milestone, or if there’s a problem.

Here are some things to watch for. 

by 12 months: isn’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye, doesn’t respond to their name

by 18 months: no clear words or has trouble following short instructions

by 2 years: not learning new words, not putting 2-word phrases together (e.g. big dog).

by 3 years: Parents and regular caregivers should understand about 75% of their child’s speech at 3 years and they should be starting to use simple sentences (e.g. fast car go).

By 4 years: child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.

By 5 years: having difficulty telling a short story with a start, middle and end.

How are speech or language impairments diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, it’s important to see a speech-language pathologist right away. 

“Sometimes parents are unsure whether they should book their child in for an appointment, but it’s important not to wait-and-see, as early intervention is known to achieve best outcomes”, said Amy Turner.

The speech pathologist (or speech-language pathologist/speech therapist) will assess your child’s speech and language skills. They may use a range of tools and assessments to check your child’s speech and language development and how this compares to norms for their age.  

“It’s also important to have a hearing assessment completed, as hearing impairment can cause speech and language difficulty”.

How can parents help?

Here are a few ways to encourage speech development at home:

  • Focus on communication. Talk with your baby, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.
  • Read to your child. Start reading when your child is a baby. Look for age-appropriate soft or board books or picture books that encourage kids to look while you name the pictures.
  • Use everyday situations. To build on your child’s speech and language, talk your way through the day. Name foods at the grocery store, explain what you’re doing as you cook a meal or clean a room, and point out objects around the house. Keep things simple but avoid “baby talk.”

If you have any concerns about your child’s development, it is best to seek professional advice as soon as possible.