Kids who are late to develop language |

Kids who are late to develop language

Helen and Marty Weiss

Every parent waits for the moment when their child says those first words. The first “mama” or “daddy” that is spoken is an event parents never forget. The first few words are usually followed by a torrent of proud object identifications, horse, dog, cat, car, truck … and the like, becoming and exciting adventure in language exploration.

When our sons uttered their first words, each new day brought a litany of phrases, humorous talk punctuated by the expression of delight at having discovered the key to communication with the outside world. For most kids, discovering the English language is just an easy “ho hum” affair delighting the accompanying adults with pride and humor.

But what of the child who appears to babble sounds but seems to make few connections to the words we speak? This child is apparently normal in development in every way and seems unaware of the correct sounds and word meanings and cannot match language development of his or her peers. Parental fears escalate and most parents watch the days pass with a marked degree of anxiety and fear. Is something wrong with my child is the first question asked of us?

Parents, eager to see their child progress have told us that they will try everything to elicit language such as singing songs, repeating delightful rhymes, saying an endless series of words over and over again. They will even refuse to respond to the unidentifiable sounds that signify requests for milk, candy, play and other wants unless they sound like true language. This often results in bouts of crying, temper tantrum, and overreaction when a child tries to respond appropriately but simply cannot say the simple words that they need to respond to a parent.

The rate at which language develops in children varies leaving parents to ask “How do I know if my child is delayed in language development?” Before we evaluation a child we try to give parents a few guidelines to assist them:

– After age 1 your child should be able to articulate consonants as well as vowel sounds.

– After age 2 your child should be producing some 20 or 30 single words.

-After age 3 your child should have achieved mastery of some intelligible phrases, should be able to pronounce initial sounds of words and have a vocabulary of phrases and short sentences.

– After age 4 your child should have fluent nonrepetitive speech and exhibit no little or no stuttering or infantile speech patterns.

– After age 5 your child should be able to utilize blend sounds e.g. words beginning with bl, fl, cl, sl, br, sl etc.

– After age 6 your child should not omit, substitute or distort sounds, show progressively longer verbal responses and be comfortable with language and not show embarrassment at the quality of his speech.

– Be aware that normal progress in speech and language development is essential to school success.

Delays can indicate possible articulation or hearing problems, cognitive difficulties, auditory attention difficulties or auditory perceptual dysfunction. A significant delay in any of these areas should signal the need to seek professional help and special attention in school to help your child get on track.

Some simple guidelines to assist parents in working with the child who is language delayed are as follows:

– Always explain what you want your child to do slowly and in simple language. Never use baby talk and if possible demonstrate what you mean.

– Be patient and wait for your child to respond even if that response seems interminable.

– Be honest with your child if you don’t understand what he/ she is saying.

– Repeat an incorrect response without criticism, using the correct language. You can even label common objects in your house to encourage some pre-reading word recognition skills.

– When you tell a story or read to your child encourage him to answer questions about the events in the story. Kids with delayed language are often deprived of “speaking time” because they are embarrassed at their own responses.

– Never allow anyone to make fun of the way your child speaks. Remember those who need speech practice most will avoid it if they feel humiliated.

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