Speech and language milestones are significant factors in your child’s development. They form the groundwork for basic language and communication skills. Disorders concerning these skills involve the disruption of normal speech, which can also affect your child’s overall development.
Parents must be mindful if their children are reaching their speech milestones. For example, the child must respond to the parents by smiling within the first 1 or 2 months of birth. Between 4 and 6 months, he should express himself by babbling. He should be able to say single words by his first birthday, put two words together by 18 months, and by two and a half years, he must be able to speak simple sentences. Apart from this, your child should be able to follow simple commands and must look at you or make eye contact when you speak to him. He must also have some basic social skills to be able to interact with others. Any absence or irregularities in these developments and capabilities are red flags that you must be alert to.
Speech milestones include verbal expression of language – the ability to make sounds and form words. Language milestones comprise not only the ability to communicate with others but also the ability to understand what others are trying to communicate. Setbacks can result from either difficulties or disorders in speech or language skills. If your child can pronounce his words well but is unable to form sentences or even put words together, he may have a language disorder. Language disorder is where the ability to process linguistic information that includes grammar or other language aspects is affected. A speech disorder on the other hand would indicate that your child may be able to express himself but his speech will be incoherent owing to poor pronunciation or articulation.
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How to diagnose speech disorders in your child
“Speech pathology disorders are rather common in young children,” says Mr. Sunil Patil, a Pune-based Audiologist and Speech Language Pathologist. It is normal for a child to make mistakes as they learn to speak. However, if these mistakes continue to disrupt his speech, then it is cause for concern. “It is recommended that you first consult your paediatrician if you think your child may have difficulties with his speech or language,” advises Mr. Patil. “He will assess if the child has achieved all the age-appropriate developmental milestones. If he finds that there are delays or complications related to speech, then he might suggest further assessment by a speech specialist, who in turn will advise appropriate therapies,” he explains.
How hearing impacts speech
Speech development largely depends on progress in other areas, which is the basic parameter to gauge whether a child’s growth is normal. One of the most vital factors for speech development is your child’s ability to hear or respond to sound. Mr. Patil says, “If a child cannot hear normally, then he will be unable to speak clearly. If he is born with a hearing defect, then most definitely he will not be able to respond and this will inevitably affect his communication skills.” Sounds, tones and speech patterns form the basis for a child to learn to speak. By constantly listening to you speak, your child begins to understand words and how to express himself using these words. These fundamental capabilities are formed in the first few years of childhood. These capabilities help the child’s reading and writing proficiencies as he grows older.
“In fact,” says Mr. Patil, “all children must have a routine check-up with an audiologist within the first few weeks of their birth. The tests conducted enable us to assess if the child has any hearing defects that might affect his speech developments as he grows.” Hearing aids also provide the necessary inputs by facilitating easier perception of sound. However, if your child can hear normally but has trouble speaking, then this should be reviewed further. Hearing and speech are closely related and are dependent on each other for normal development and functioning.
It is essential that you monitor your child’s developmental progress regularly. Early intervention is the key to help your child overcome simple setbacks. “Don’t assume that your child will outgrow these impediments. Extended delays might hinder the chances of treating them and supplementing their developmental progression. Moreover, this will affect your child’s social and emotional interactions and development as well,” Mr. Patil emphasises.