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Speech Disorder & Delay Diagnosis

Siskin's team of speech-language pathologists can
help you understand your child's speech and language
challenges and develop a treatment plan right for them.

When is speech considered delayed?

Speech is considered delayed when a child’s language development is significantly behind their peers. The specific age at which speech is considered delayed can vary depending on the child and the specific speech and language milestones they have not yet achieved.

However, as a general guideline, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests that parents should seek an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist if their child is:

  • Not babbling by 7 months of age
  • Not using gestures (such as pointing or waving) by 12 months of age
  • Not saying any words by 16 months of age
  • Not saying two-word phrases by 24 months of age

If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, ask your provider for a referral to a speech-language pathologist.

What are common speech disorders?

Some of the common speech disorders that children may experience include:

  • Delayed onset of speech: While most babies start talking between 12 and 18 months, some may not start speaking until they are two years old or older. This is considered delayed onset of speech.
  • Articulation disorders: Children with articulation delays have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or words correctly. For example, speech sounds may be incorrectly substituted (tun for sun), omitted (ool for school) or distorted (shun for sun).
  • Language disorders: Children with language disorders may have difficulty understanding language and vocabulary, following directions, and choosing the appropriate words and combining them correctly for sentences.
  • Apraxia of speech: Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for children to coordinate the oral/facial movements needed for speech.
  • Fluency disorder (stuttering): Stuttering is a speech disorder that causes interruptions in the normal flow of speech. Children who stutter may repeat sounds or words, prolong sounds, or have difficulty starting a word. This is often accompanied by secondary characteristics (tics and other movements).

Has your child already been diagnosed with a speech disorder? Learn more about our speech therapy services in Chattanooga.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes speech delays?

There are several factors that can contribute to speech delays in children, including:

  • Developmental delays: Some children’s speech and language skills simply develop at a slower pace than those of their peers. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as genetics, environmental factors, or other health issues.
  • Hearing problems: Children with hearing problems may have difficulty hearing sounds and words correctly, which can impact their ability to develop speech and language skills.
  • Neurological issues: Conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder can affect communication skills.
  • Lack of exposure to language: Children who are not exposed to language or have limited exposure to language may experience delays in speech and language development.
  • Environmental factors: Factors such as poverty, low educational attainment, or a lack of access to quality healthcare may also contribute to speech delays in some children.
Did I cause my child's speech delays?

It’s important to remember that speech and language delays are not caused by anything that parents do or do not do. No, you did not necessarily cause your child’s speech delays. There are many factors that can contribute to speech delays, and most of them are beyond the control of parents.

However, there are things that parents can do to support their child’s speech and language development, such as reading to them, talking to them, and seeking early intervention if there are concerns about their development.

What kind of doctor diagnoses speech delays?

While any healthcare provider can screen for speech and language delays, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is typically the healthcare provider who diagnoses speech delays and provides treatment.

SLPs are trained professionals who evaluate and treat individuals with speech, language, and communication disorders. They are often part of a team of healthcare professionals, including pediatricians, neurologists, and psychologists, who work together to assess and treat children with speech and language delays.

Learn more about speech therapy at Siskin.

How do you treat speech delays?

The treatment for speech delays depends on the specific needs of the individual child, as well as the underlying cause of the delay. In general, treatment for speech delays may include:

  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy is a common treatment for speech delays. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) will work with the child to identify their specific speech and language difficulties and develop a treatment plan that targets those areas. Therapy may involve exercises to strengthen the muscles used in speech, practicing specific sounds or words, or working on comprehension and expression.
  • Parent training: In some cases, parents may be taught specific techniques and strategies to help their child improve their speech and language skills. This can include activities to do at home or tips for facilitating communication in everyday situations.
  • Assistive technology: Some children may benefit from the use of assistive technology, such as speech-generating devices or communication apps, to supplement their speech and language skills.
  • Medical intervention: In some cases, speech delays may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as hearing loss or a neurological disorder. Medical intervention may be necessary to address these underlying issues.

It’s important to note that treatment for speech delays is most effective when it is started early. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, request an appointment with a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation and guidance on the appropriate treatment options.

Does baby sign language delay speech?

No, baby sign language does not typically delay speech. In fact, some research suggests that teaching babies sign language may actually improve their speech and language development.

Baby sign language involves teaching infants and toddlers simple hand gestures that correspond to specific words or concepts, such as “more,” “all done,” or “please.” The idea is that babies can use these gestures to communicate their needs and wants before they are able to speak the words.

While there is some debate among experts about the potential benefits of baby sign language, several studies have found that it does not delay speech and language development. In fact, some studies have suggested that using sign language with babies may enhance their language skills and lead to earlier development of spoken language.

It’s important to note that using baby sign language is not a substitute for speech therapy or other interventions if a child is experiencing speech and language delays. However, it may be a helpful tool for parents who want to encourage communication with their young children.

Is it a speech delay or is it autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. While a speech delay can be a characteristic of autism, it is not always the case, and other developmental disorders or language disorders can also cause a delay in speech.

If you think your child may have autism, ask your doctor for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician for evaluation. Learn about getting an autism diagnosis at Siskin.

Get A Diagnosis at Siskin

At the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics, we believe that the best care is coordinated care. Therefore, we accept new patients for assessment and diagnosis from a referring physician. This provides us with a comprehensive medical history and information and maintains continuity with the child’s primary care physician and specialist.

Make a Referral