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4 Common Causes of a Speech Delay in Kids

4 Common Causes of a Speech Delay in Kids

Few milestones are as precious as hearing your child’s first words. From that moment forward, you’re acutely aware of their progress. Even if you don’t look up the milestones, you talk with other parents and know if your child’s speech is on par with other children their age.

If your child’s speech seems delayed, you’re not alone. One in five children develops these skills at a slower pace than other kids their age. With the proper therapy, most learn the skills they need to overcome the delay.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech, the experienced team at THINK Neurology for Kids is here to help. In the meantime, here’s the information you need to know about speech delays and their causes.

Speech delay defined

If a child’s speech skills don’t meet the expected developmental milestones, they have a speech delay. Speech refers to the ability to talk, forming sounds and words that others can understand. 

Here are a few of the key milestones for speech:

Developmental milestones aren’t written in stone. Some kids reach them earlier, others later than the designated age, but they can still be within the expected range.

Look at lists of developmental milestones. You should be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated them in February 2022. All the lists available online may not reflect the changes.

Speech delay causes

The top four causes of a speech delay include:

Oral-motor problems

Oral-motor problems occur when children can’t coordinate the movements needed to form words. The problem typically originates in the part of the brain that controls the lip, tongue, and jaw muscles. As a result, children can’t move the muscles needed to make sounds and speak, a condition called apraxia.

Another oral-motor problem, dysarthria, develops when children have weak facial muscles. Weak muscles interfere with their ability to move their mouth and make the shapes needed for speech.

Hearing problems

Children can’t learn to speak or pronounce words properly if they can’t hear. Hearing loss can be inherited or developed during childhood. For example, recurrent or severe viral and bacterial ear infections may lead to hearing loss.

About 3-5% of children have auditory processing disorder (APD). Kids with APD (also called central auditory processing disorder) can’t understand everything they hear because their brain doesn’t recognize or interpret sounds properly. With therapy, most children develop the skills they need to manage APD.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

ASD occurs in kids with a vast range of abilities. However, nearly half of kids with ASD have speech delays and other language challenges.

Since children with autism struggle with communication, they may not meet milestones associated with speech development. For example, gestures like pointing to express their needs is one step toward speech in young babies. Children with ASD may miss or show a delay in these milestones. 

Intellectual disability

Children with an intellectual disability frequently have a speech delay. They may have difficulty producing or pronouncing words, putting words together in sentences, or using language to communicate with others.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech, call THINK Neurology for Kids or request an appointment online.

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