Speech and Language Disorders

What are speech and language disorders?
Speech: Refers to articulation, or the movement of the articulator's lips, tongue, cheeks and soft palate, to produce sounds and combinations of sounds. Typically, by about six months, a child is using a variety of sounds (some consonants and some vowels) in vocal play. By one year, a child is usually combining sounds into a few words or word-like appointments. By the age of two, most speech is intelligible but usually not precise. Accurate productions of sounds continue to improve as the child grows. A child with a speech disorder would have difficulty creating or forming speech.

Language: Includes several areas including understanding information, processing information and exercising words or gestures. Direction following, vocabulary, grammar, understanding of concepts and emotions are all part of language. A child with a language disorder would have difficulty understanding (receptive language disorder) and/or communicating (expressive language disorder) with other people.

Normal Speech & Language Development Milestones
  • By nine months - Responds to his/her name, plays peek-a-boo, uses babbling sounds that sound like real speech.
  • By one year - Says two to three words to fulfill needs and get attention of others, understands simple instructions.
  • By 18 months - Uses 10-12 words, combines two words, points to a few body parts.
  • By two years - Is using 300 words, uses simple two and three word sentences, enjoys books and listens to stories with pictures, listens to the meaning of words.
  • By three years - Understands words related to concepts such as color, size, time of day, position, uses 1000 words and uses three or four word sentences.

What are the symptoms for speech disorders?
A child with a speech disorder may have:

  • Articulation Disorders - difficulty making the sounds necessary for speech (e.g., stuttering or a lisp).
  • Disfluency - examples of which include sentences that are cut off mid-utterance, phrases that are restarted or repeated and repeated syllables, interjections such as "uh", "um" and "well" and repaired utterances (e.g., instances of speakers correcting their own slips of the tongue or mispronunciations)
  • Voice Disorders - conditions affecting the production of speech including: hoarseness or raspiness to the voice, voice break in or out, pitch of voice changes suddenly, voice is too loud or too soft, running out of air during a sentence, too much air is escaping through the hose (hypernasality) or too little air is coming out through the nose (hyponasality).

What are the symptoms for language disorders?
Language disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe. Children with a receptive language disorder have difficulty with:

  • Understanding what other people are saying.
  • Following spoken directions.
  • Organizing their thoughts.

Children with an expressive language disorder may have a vocabulary that is below that of other children their age and/or may have difficulty with:

  • Putting words together into sentences. Sentences may be simple and short. Word order may be off.
  • Finding the right words when talking, which may result in the frequent use of interjections like "um" or "uh" or long pauses.
  • Leaving words out of sentences when talking.
  • Using certain phrases over and over again.
  • Repeating (echoing) parts or all of questions.
  • Using past, present and/or future tenses incorrectly.

How are speech and language disorders treated?
Children will vary in their rate of development. However, if you have any questions or concerns that your child may not be developing speech and language skills at an appropriate rate, call the speech-language pathologists at the Pediatric Therapy Center for suggestions.

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