What is a language delay?
A language delay is a communication disorder. Your child may have a language
delay if they don’t meet the language developmental milestones for their age. Their
language abilities may be developing at a slower rate than normal. They may
have trouble expressing themselves or understanding others. Their delay may involve
a combination of hearing, speech, and cognitive impairments.
Language delays are quite common. According to the University of
Michigan Health System, delayed speech or language development affects 5 to
10 percent of preschool-aged children.
of language delay
A language delay can be receptive, expressive, or a combination of both. A
receptive language problem happens when your child has difficulty understanding
language. An expressive language disorder happens when your child has
difficulty expressing themselves.
are the symptoms of language delay?
If your child has a language delay, they won’t reach language milestones at
the normal age. Their specific symptoms and the milestones they miss will
depend on their age and the nature of their language delay.
Common symptoms of language delay include:
- not babbling by the age of 15 months
- not talking by the age of 2
- an inability to speak in short sentences by the age of
- difficulty following directions
- poor pronunciation or articulation
- difficulty putting words together in a sentence
- leaving words out of a sentence
What causes language delay?
Language delays in children have many possible causes. In some instances,
more than one factor contributes to a language delay. Some common causes
include the following:
- It’s common for children who have a hearing impairment
to have a language impairment as well. If they can’t hear language,
learning to communicate can be difficult.
- While not all children with autism have language
delays, autism frequently affects communication.
- A variety of intellectual disabilities can cause
language delays. For instance, dyslexia and other learning disabilities lead
to language delays in some cases.
- Several psychosocial issues can cause language delays.
For example, severe neglect can lead to problems with language
is at risk of language delay?
According to the U.S.
Preventive Services Task Force, potential risk factors for speech and language
- being male
- being born prematurely
- having a low birth weight
- having a family history of speech or language problems
- having parents with lower levels of education
How is language delay diagnosed?
Your child’s doctor will conduct a physical exam and take their medical
history to diagnose a language delay. They may ask about language milestones that
your child has already met or missed. They may also order other tests or refer
your child to another health professional.
For example, your child’s doctor may recommend a hearing exam to determine if
your child has a hearing impairment. Your
child may have hearing problems that have been overlooked, especially if
they’re very young. A language therapist or neuropsychologist may also administer
standardized language assessments to learn whether your child has a language
is language delay treated?
After diagnosis, your child’s treatment plan will likely involve speech and
language therapy. A licensed speech-language pathologist will complete an
evaluation to determine the types of problems that your child is facing. This
will help them develop and implement a treatment plan.
If your child has underlying health conditions, their doctor may recommend
other treatments as well. For example, they may recommend a cochlear implant to
treat a hearing impairment.
is the outlook?
Your child’s outlook will vary, depending on their specific condition and
age. Some children are able to catch up to their peers and meet future language
milestones. Other children have more difficulty overcoming language delays and may
face problems in later childhood. Some children with language delays have
difficulty reading or behavior problems as a result of their delayed language
If your child is diagnosed with a language delay, it’s
important to start treatment quickly. Early treatment can help prevent other
problems from developing. For example, learning, social, and emotional problems
can arise from a language delay.
encouraging language development
It may not be possible to prevent all language delays. For example, hearing impairments
and learning disabilities may not always be preventable. Follow these tips to
encourage language development in your child:
- Talk to your child from the time they’re born.
- Respond to your child’s babbling when they’re a baby.
- Sing to your child, even when they’re a baby.
- Read aloud to your child.
- Answer your child’s questions.