A Language Delay is when a child is not demonstrating the typical language skills expected for his or her age. Instead, the child’s language skills may appear to be at the level of a somewhat younger child. For instance, a 2 year old is typically able to say at least 50 words and on average 200 words; a child with language delay may only use a few words or even no words at this point. However, the child with simple language delay should still be developing language in the normal order and demonstrating the typical milestones and communicative behaviors of a younger child. For instance, the two year old with the above language delay would still have gone through the typical process of babbling, demonstrating appropriate play skills, using basic gestures like waving hi, and other developmental milestones.
A Language Disorder, however, is when a child’s language development does not follow a typical order or sequence. Such a child may have acquired skills out of order, missed certain developmental milestones altogether, or otherwise have atypical development and language use. A child with a language disorder may use incorrect grammatical and sentence structures that are not typical for any stages of development.
Conditions aSSociated with IMPAIRED Language
Various conditions and disorders are associated with and can sometimes cause a child to struggle with language development. Many parents worry that their child’s language struggles are a sign of another disability. Language Delays and Disorders are often present in autistic children, children with hearing loss, kids with global or general developmental delays, those with intellectual disabilities, and children with various learning disabilities such as ADHD. When children are young, it can sometimes be difficult for parents and caretakers to differentiate between a child who is only language delayed or impaired vs. a child with another underlying condition. Some signs of these disorders or conditions are discussed below.
What are some signs that my child may be autistic?
An autistic child will usually present with some of the following signs:
- avoiding eye contact,
- not using gestures
- not pointing
- not babbling
- lost words that they previously had
- repeating words and phrases without an obvious communicative intent or purpose
- lack of interest or less interest in social games like peek-a-boo, turn-taking games, etc.
- Stimming behaviors like hand-flapping
- Walking on toes, possibly due to sensory issues
- Sensory issues: maybe be very sensitive to lights, sounds, certain textures in food or items
- Maybe be a very picky eater
What is general or global developmental delay?
Global Developmental Delay is when a child is delayed in at least 2 areas of their development. There are 5 main areas of child development that we monitor for milestones: cognitive (thinking), social/emotional, fine & gross motor skills, and daily living activities. In order for your child to have a global development delay, he or she would need to be delayed in at least one other area of development for his/her age. For instance, a child who did not have a *minimum* of 50 words & could not eat finger foods by 24 months would be delay in language & fine motor skills, thereby presenting with a global developmental delay. A child with global developmental delay would require other services (for instance, occupational therapy) in addition to speech therapy.
What are signs that my child has an intellectual disability?
A child with an intellectual disability will usually show delays across multiple areas; in fact, he/she would likely be diagnosed with a developmental delay due to delays in walking, sitting, crawling, speaking, and/or eating. Not all children with developmental delay have an intellectual disability, however; a child with an intellectual disability has specific delays and struggles with cognitive or thinking skills as well as daily living activities (the activities that we do daily to take care of ourselves such as bathing, eating, etc.) A child with a suspected intellectual disability might struggle to remember things, understand social rules, and problem-solve more that children of his or her age.
What are signs that my child might have a hearing loss?
Sometimes a child’s speech delay may be partially or wholly caused by hearing issues. It’s important to talk with your pediatrician and get your child’s hearing tested if you suspect your child has hearing loss. Below are some signs of potential hearing loss:
- does not respond or react to loud noises
- doesn’t respond/react to their name
- No reaction to voices
- Doesn’t turn or look for source of a sound
- Ears look unusual (very small, unusual shape or appearance, etc)
- Doesn’t seem to understand directions
- Has stopped babbling or making sounds
What are signs that my child has ADHD?
ADHD is difficult to diagnose prior to preschool age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a child be evaluated for AdHD concerns at 4+ years of age. For younger children, it is challenging to tell apart ADHD from other conditions or even normal impulsive, active behavior for the child’s age. Below are some of the signs for possible ADHD:
- Impulse Behaviors involve regularly putting oneself in danger and/or getting aggressive with peers
- easily distracted
- trouble falling asleep
- extended tantrums of 15-30 minutes daily or multiple times a day
- difficulty staying on any one activity
- struggles to make and maintain friends due to frequent social rule-breaking