The neighborhood playgroup should be a wonderful gathering for parents to share experiences, discuss preschools, and have a little adult interaction over a cup of coffee while the kids learn social skills. But if several of your child’s precocious friends are babbling away in two- and three-word sentences, while your child still hasn’t mastered mama, it’s difficult not to develop a pit in your stomach worrying about why your child hasn’t caught up.
Although speech and language difficulties are the most common early-in-life disabilities, not all delays are indications of a more generalized learning problem. Check out these three reasons why your child may be experiencing trouble mastering the art of chatter.
Sometimes the problem is physical. Children born with cleft palates often have speech difficulties, especially in the early years before surgery. A less noticeable problem may exist under a child’s tongue. If the fold of skin under the tongue (called the frenulum) is too short, it will limit the tongue’s range of motion and perhaps inhibit your child’s ability to make some sounds. A quick trip to a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) can diagnose such problems and offer ways to ameliorate it.
If an infant or toddler can’t hear a parent speaking, then she will understandably have difficulty developing language and speech. Any concern about a child’s ability to hear should be followed by a trip to an audiologist for expert screening. The sooner a hearing problem is diagnosed, the sooner steps can be taking to improve aural abilities and thus promote improved language and speech development.
It’s crucial to note that not all hearing difficulties may be related to biological impairments. Children who have a history of chronic ear infections may have had gaps in their language and speech development when they could not process sounds well. As long as the infections were properly treated, however, a toddler should easily catch up to her peers.
Mind Over Matter
Some speech and language delays are due to unusual wiring in the brain that short-circuits the facility of the oral-motor functioning. If feeding problems go along with the verbal and comprehension delays, this may be the root cause of your child’s difficulties.
It’s important to note that, in some cases, speech and language delays can be a single symptom of an overall developmental delay. Sometimes those “global” delays are difficult to diagnose until a child reaches preschool or grammar school age. Speech and language difficulties may be an indicator that points to a more systemic issue.
Every child learns at a different rate. Contact your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your infant, toddler, or preschooler’s language comprehension and/or speech development. Once oral and aural issues are ruled out, a speech pathologist can drill down to the specifics of any delay diagnosis and provide positive steps for the future.