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Spot Early Signs of Speech Delay in Your Child

If you’re wondering if your child has a speech delay, there are a few key things to look for. Speech delay is when a child isn’t developing speech skills at the expected rate. It is a common developmental problem and one that speech-language pathologists are experts at identifying and treating. Typically early intervention SLPs will be the ones to evaluate and treat a child with a confirmed or suspected speech and language delay.

In this article we will discuss:

Mom playing with baby on bed looks for signs that her child might have speech delay or need speech therapy from Better Speech

In this post, we will be talking about what speech delay is, the causes of speech delay, and what speech delay signs to look for in your child. Read more to know more!

Speech delay signs you need to look out

Speech delay can be hard to spot in young children. That’s because speech development is a gradual process. A speech delay becomes more obvious as speech skills continue to develop and lag behind other milestones, such as walking and talking.

The speech delay signs you should be on the lookout for will depend on your child’s age. However, some common symptoms of speech delay to look for in any age group.

Here are five speech delay signs that may indicate your child has a speech delay:

  1. If your child is not babbling by 12 months: Babies typically start babbling around 6-8 months of age. If your baby is not babbling by 12 months, this may be a sign of speech delay.

  2. When your child has no single words by 16 months: By 16 months, most babies will have a few words in their vocabulary, such as “mama” or “dada.” If your baby is not using any words by this age, it could be a sign of speech delay.

  3. If your child does not produce two-word phrases by 24 months. By 24 months, most toddlers should be able to put together two-word phrases such as “more milk” or “all gone.” If your child is not using two-word phrases by this age, it may be a sign of speech delay.

  4. When your child has difficulty making certain sounds: If your child is having difficulty making certain sounds, such as “s” or “r,” this could be a sign of speech delay.

  5. If your child is not understandable half of the time by 4 years: By 4 years old, most children are speech intelligible, meaning that they can be understood 50% of the time by strangers. If your child is not speech intelligible at this age, it may be symptoms of speech delay.

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What can cause speech delay?

There are many possible causes of speech delay. In some cases, the causes of speech delay are unknown. However, there are some known risk factors for speech delay, such as hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. When a speech delay is caused by an underlying medical condition, it’s important to get treatment for the condition.

It can also run in families. Studies show that speech delay is more common in children whose parents or siblings had speech delay. If speech delay runs in your family, it’s important to be on the lookout for speech delay signs in your child.

Recent studies talked about what can cause speech delay. They found out that prolonged screen time can also be one of the causes of speech delay or it may be a risk factor for speech delay. This is because it can take away from time that could be spent developing speech and language skills. So if your child is spending a lot of time on tablets or smartphones, it’s important to cut back on their screen time and encourage them to engage in other activities, such as talking, playing, and reading.

Common Questions Parents Ask about Speech delay

Now we know some of the speech delay signs you need to look out for your child and what can cause speech delay, let’s answer some common questions parents ask about speech delay.

Q: At what age should a child be saying certain speech sounds?

A: Because we know that one of they the symptoms of speech delay is when your child has a hard time producing certain words, we should also know that each sound also develops at a different rate. For example, the ‘m’ sound is usually one of the first sounds that babies make. The ‘s’ sound is usually one of the last speech sounds to develop. In some cases, speech delay can be normal. Some speech sounds, such as “r” and “th,” are notoriously difficult for kids to say.

Symptoms of Speech Delay

If your child is having trouble with these sounds, it’s likely because they’re still working on mastering them. If you want more information about speech sound development, check out this blog post. When your child does not meet speech milestones for their age group, this is when you should start to worry and look out for speech delay signs.

Q: How many words should my child say?

A: Every child is different and will develop speech skills at their own pace. However, there are some general milestones that most children will reach. By 12 months, most babies will have a few words in their vocabulary. At 18 months, most toddlers will be using 10-20 words. By 24 months, most toddlers will be using 50-100 words.

Q: What if my child is just a late talker?

A: Late talking is different from speech delay. Late talkers are typically developing speech skills within the normal range, but they’re doing so at a later age than their peers. While speech delay is a cause for concern, late talking may not. However, if you spot a sign of speech delay in your child, it’s always best to consult with a speech-language pathologist right a way to rule out any underlying speech or language problems.

If you wait for your child to talk, they may never start! Seeking early intervention is important for speech delay. The earlier speech delay is identified, the sooner speech delay therapy can begin. If you wait for your child to “outgrow” their speech delay, they might not. In fact, research has shown that children who receive speech-language therapy early on are more likely to make significant progress and catch up to their peers.

Q: Is speech delay autism?

No, speech delay is not autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior. While speech delay can be a symptom of autism, it is not the same thing. If you’re concerned that your child may have autism, it’s important to consult with a professional right away.

Q: Can speech delay be cured?

A: While speech delay can’t be “cured,” it can be treated with speech-language therapy. Speech-language therapy is an effective treatment for speech delay and can help your child make significant progress.

Q: What does prolonged screen time have to do with speech delay?

A: Prolonged screen time has been linked to speech delay. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 18 months avoid all screen time, including television, computers, tablets, and smartphones. For older children, they recommend limiting screen time to no more than one hour per day.

How is speech delay diagnosed?

If you’re concerned that your child may have a speech delay, the first step is to talk to your child’s doctor to cancel out any possible medical causes. If the doctor finds no medical cause for the speech delay, they may refer you to a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation.

During the evaluation, the speech-language pathologist will assess your child’s speech skills, tell you what can cause speech delay, and what symptoms of speech delay to look out for. They may also ask questions about your family history and your child’s speech development milestones.

How is speech delay treated?

If your child has a speech delay, there are many different speech delay treatment options available. The type of treatment will depend on the cause of the speech delay and the severity of the delay. In some cases, speech therapy is highly recommended. Speech therapy can help your child to develop their speech skills and improve their communication abilities.

After seeking treatment, when should my child talk?

The prognosis for speech delay depends on the cause. If the speech delay is caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment of the condition will usually improve speech development. For example, if speech delay is caused by hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants can help to improve speech skills.

Speech Delay

There are a lot of prognosticating factors that make speech therapy effective or not. A positive prognosticating factor includes family involvement. The speech therapist will likely give you exercises to do at home with your child to help them practice their speech skills. It’s important to follow through with these exercises on a daily basis to help your child make progress.

Another positive prognosticating factor includes the speech therapist’s qualifications. Be sure to ask about the speech therapist’s education, experience, and credentials before you begin treatment. At Better Speech, we have many speech therapists with a wide range of qualifications, so you’re sure to find a speech therapist that’s right for your child.

Generally speaking, the sooner speech therapy begins, the better the outcome is likely to be. Symptoms of speech delay will surely improve and lessen with speech therapy!

How to Help your Child with Speech Delay

If your child has speech delay, there are many things that you can do to help them. We will be giving you five tips and exercises you can do in the comforts of your home!

1. Encourage your child to talk. Talk to them often and give them opportunities to practice their speech skills. To encourage your child to talk, a technique you can keep favorable toys in sight but out of reach. This will give your child a reason to ask for the toy using words. You can also name everything you do together as you’re doing it. For example, say “I’m putting on my shoes so I can go outside and play” or “I’m opening the door so the dog can go outside.” This can help to increase your child’s vocabulary.

Speech Delay Signs

2. Read books together every day. Reading books together is a great way to help your child develop their speech and language skills. When you’re reading, point to the pictures and name the objects that you see. Encourage your child to talk about what they see in the pictures. You can also make up stories together. This is a great way to practice speech and language skills while having fun!

3. Stop asking too many questions and give your child time to answer. When you ask your child a question, wait at least 5 seconds before you say anything else. This will give your child time to think about their answer and respond. If they don’t respond after 5 seconds, you can gently prompt them by saying something like “Tell me about the dog” or “What color is the horse?”

4. Play sound games together. Sound games are a great way to help your child practice their speech skills. You can play sound games anywhere – in the car, at the store, or even at home. To play a sound game, choose an object and make the sound that it makes. For example, if you’re at the store, you can say “I hear the sound of a cash register” or “I hear the sound of a beep.”

5. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Sleep is important for speech and language development. A tired child is less likely to have the energy to practice their speech and language skills. Make sure your child is getting at least 10 hours of sleep every night.

These are just a few things that you can do to help your child with speech delay. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor or a speech-language pathologist. Better Speech has many qualified speech-language pathologists who would be happy to help you and your family.

At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.

I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.


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I'm not an English native speaker and I wanted to improve my speech. Better Speech onboarding process is AWESOME, I met with different people before being matched with an AMAZING Therapist, Christina. My assigned therapist created a safe place for me to be vulnerable and made all the sessions fun and helpful. Thanks to her, I received great feedback from my clients.

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Better Speech is a great program that is easy to use from home and anywhere online. Shannon was amazing at engaging our shy son - and building on their relationship each session! Her commitment to knowing him improved his confidence to speak and practice more. Truly appreciate her dedication. She cares for her clients.

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Better Speech is an excellent opportunity to improve your speech in the convenience of your home with flexible scheduling options. Our therapist Miss Lynda was nothing short of amazing! We have greatly appreciated and enjoyed the time spent together in speech therapy. Her kind, engaging and entertaining spirit has been well received. She will surely be missed.

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This service is so easy, i signed up, got a therapist and got to set up an appointment right away that worked with my schedule. so glad to see that services like speech therapy are finally catching up to the rest of the convenience age! therapy is great, i can't believe how many good tips, exercises and methods in just the first session. really recommend it!

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