Some children learn to speak later and others, and many of them have no real problems with development. However, parents who learn what is typical in early development and track their kids’ progress may discover that their kids have delayed development in speech. Depending on the cause of the issue, different speech delay treatments may be available for the child.
Delayed speech is often a result of poor hearing, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or other physical or neurological issues. Parents should consult an expert for a hearing test and diagnosis in order to determine the correct treatment. If the cause is identified early, children with hearing problems can begin treatment with audiologists even before they begin speaking, while those with a cleft lip or palate can receive the necessary surgery and orthodontic care. If the cause is autism, operant conditioning may be used to promote speech development.
Experts recommend that parents talk, read, and sing to children as much and early as possible to help with their speech development. KidsHealth recommends talking to kids throughout the day — explaining actions, asking and answering questions, and asking them to repeat words or sounds. Start with simple books or songs, but avoid using “baby talk” or forcing kids to speak. Kids with delayed speech can also benefit from playing and talking with children who are more advanced in speech development.
Speech-language pathologists most commonly recommend speech delay treatments for kids, including language stimulation techniques and other forms of treatment for parents to use at home, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Parents may also need to change the way they speak to their kids. Pathologists will also help develop a formal treatment plan for the kids if at-home techniques are not enough. If the cause of delayed speech is psychological, the physician may also work with a psychologist, social worker, and/or occupational therapist for the speech-language therapy.
A 2010 study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine suggests music therapy may help children with delayed speech. Researchers suggest singing and playing music, as with other forms of “creative art therapy,” may improve children’s communication and vocalization skills. Scientists are also continuing to develop and study other forms of speech delay treatment, so parents whose kids have delayed development should keep an eye on the latest research.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, delayed speech is the most common problem developmental issue, affecting up to 10 percent of kids. Parents who notice their kids are lagging behind do not need to panic, but should ask their doctors to evaluate the children and provide speech delay treatment immediately. Avoiding delay in treatment can make a world of difference for the happy, healthy futures of these kids.