Did I Cause my Child Speech Delay? 

A common question parents ask their child’s speech therapists is,” did I cause my child speech delay”? Often, parents blame their engaged schedules as a cause of their child’s speech delay. But, there are many speech delay causes; you don’t have to blame yourself or carry the guilt.

I remember two years ago, I was also there.

Blaming myself for my son’s speech delay.

But with lots of activities, preschool and social interaction, he is catching up and I no longer blame myself.

To relieve your guilt and for your information purposes, we have compiled some possible causes of speech delay. 

Possible Causes of Speech Delay in your Child

1.      Screen Time 

There is a great transformation with media and its role in young children’s and infants’ lives. Many children, including economically challenged families, are familiar with digital technologies, including mobile media, every day. 

However, as a parent and caretaker, you need to understand between 0 to 5 years; it’s a critical age for brain development, establishing healthy behavior, and nurturing secure relationships. 

Again, research has shown that children below two years need hands-on explorations and social interaction with caregivers to develop their cognitive, motor, social, emotional skills, and language. Moreover, toddlers and infants cannot learn from traditional digital media due to their immature symbolic, attention skills, and memory.

If you want your child to learn from digital media, you need to watch with them and re-teach the content. The most common among the many baby songs is “Baby Shark doo doo song,” which is believed to cause speech delay, sometimes mistaken for autism. Unfortunately, many caregivers may not be aware that the song may be causing more harm than good. 

2.     Autism

Often children with autism have speech delay. However, speech delay alone is not a sign of autism. There are other possible causes of speech delay like developmental delay and hearing loss. A child with autistic speech delay will have communications issues like;

  • Delayed language development
  • Respond to their name slowly or fail to respond
  • Slow gesture development like pointing and showing others things
  • Normal baby coo and bubble in the first year, then stop later.
  • Communicate using their sign language or using pictures
  • Repeat some phrases over and over again or sometimes speak in single words, finding it difficult to combine words into meaningful sentences
  • Echolalia, whereby a child repeats words or phrases they hear
  • Use misplaced words that seem out of place, odd, or words only known to those familiar with him.

3.     Expressive/ Receptive Language Delay

To communicate with others effectively, we use expressive and receptive language. If someone has a problem comprehending others or sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas, the person might have a language disorder. Whereby the disorder may be either receptive or expressive. 

Receptive language disorder: refers to the capability to understand and comprehend the spoken language they read or hear. For instance, the ability of a child to listen and follow directions depends on their receptive language skills.

Typically, children understand language before they can produce it. That is why a child with receptive language disorder or difficulties finds it challenging to comprehend. If this is the case, you might find your child struggling with;

  • Comprehension reading
  • Understanding a story
  • Identifying pictures and objects
  • Answering questions
  • Direction following
  • Understanding different gestures

Expressive language skill is the ability to express your needs and wants by non-verbal or verbal communication. You can also refer to it as the know-how to grammatically put your thoughts into a sensible sentence. However, a child with an expressive language disorder may struggle with;

  • Following grammar rules
  • Word/ sentence meaning
  • Asking questions
  • Naming objects
  • Forming words

4.     Childhood Apraxia of Speech(CAS)

Childhood apraxia of speech is a rare speech disorder whereby a child struggles to make accurate movements when speaking, since the brain struggles with the speech movement coordination plan. 

However, although the speech muscles are not weak, they don’t work normally due to the brain’s difficulty coordinating or directing the movements. For your child to speak correctly, the brain must plan what to communicate to the speech muscle to articulate sounds and words spoken in normal rhythm and speed. 

Depending on your child’s age and severity of their speech problem, the speech difficulty symptoms or characteristics vary. However, children’s apraxia of speech is associated with;

  • A limited number of spoken words
  • First words onset delay
  • Ability to construct a few vowels or consonant sounds

You may notice these signs between 18 months and 2 years of age. Between 2 years and 4, when your child produces more speech, CAS might include;

  • Distortion of vowels and consonants
  • Syllable separation between or within words
  • Punctuation errors, for instance,” pie,” sound like “bye.”

CAS affects children’s speech whereby there is difficulty moving jaws, lips, and tongue to the correct position for sound-making—making it challenging to transition to the next sound smoothly. Again, several children with CAS have language problems, word order difficulty, and less vocabulary. 

5.     Lack of Social Interaction

According to research, social interaction promotes phonological and lexical development in a child’s early language acquisition stages. Again, children get a language when they interact with their caregivers in social interactions. 

Whereby, a typical child will effortlessly learn a particular language used around them. Further, your child will not acquire a language from linguistic inputs like computer presentations and TVs since language is uniquely human and inherently social. 

Moreover, social interaction offers several required information for language development. Again, social interaction boosts motivation and attracts more attention in infants, resulting in phonetic learning. 

Further, an infant may not learn from DVD presentations because they are unfamiliar and have no experience with the language. Again, DVD explanations are not implausible or mutually exclusive in language acquisition. 

6.     Einstein Syndrome

Einstein syndrome is when a child experiences late language emergence or late onset of language while demonstrating giftedness in other analytical thinking areas. A child with Einstein syndrome will eventually speak without issues and remains ahead of the curve in other areas. 

Albert Einstein is behind the Einstein syndrome. Some biographers refer to him as a bright late talker, whereby he made an understandable speech at four years and gained fluent speech at nine years.

However, while late talking can be a sign of autism or other developmental disorder, Thomas Sowell, an American economist, noted that a significant percentage of later talking children later thrive, proving themselves to be productive and high analytical thinkers. 

According to Thomas Sowell, Einstein syndrome bright children who talk late book, children with this condition possess characteristics like;

  • Have a strong will
  • They mostly end up in music or science
  • In their home, there is a scientist or a mathematician 
  • They are bored by simple and boring things
  • They possess an excellent memory
  • They have a strong will
  • They will get themselves out of places quickly since they are analytical and calculative 

However, it’s essential to seek medical help for your child as a parent for early intervention. Since this book can give parents and their children false hopes to end not speak at all. 

7.     Selective Mutism

Selective mutism disorder may be attributed to your child’s speech delay. It is a disorder characterized by the child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in some social settings such as school. However, individual mutism varies significantly from one person to another. 

You might notice your child not speaking outside the home, whispering, or speaking with only a few select people. This happens when our child communicates verbally with select people in selected places. 

Often, children with this disorder do not speak in school and hence interfere with the child’s social, educational, and academic performance. Children in this category sometimes communicate via non-vocal or nonspoken means by pointing and writing. A child may be diagnosed with select mutism disorder if;

  • Despite speaking in other situations, your child fails to speak in specific social situations where they should speak, like school.
  • The child disturbance obstructs occupational, educational, and social communication.
  • The speech disruption will last at least one month.
  • Your child’s lack of speaking is not a result of a lack of the spoken language knowledge or comfort required in the social situation.

Further, your child uses the above characters for self-protection when feeling anxious or may happen deliberately. Again, individuals with selective mutism often may show social phobia, social anxiety and the following symptoms;

  1. Running away
  2. Hiding
  3. Crying 
  4. Freezing
  5. Bring tantrums when asked to speak in public
  6. Avoid eating in public
  7. Uncomfortable when a picture or video is being taken
  8. Anxious to use public restrooms
  9. Clinging to parents’ lack of eye contact
  10. Avoidance in starting and participating in conversations

When Do Late Talkers Catch Up?

Usually, a child should say their first word by 12 months. In contrast, a late talker is a toddler between 18 and 30 months, with a good understanding of language. At this age, the child is developing play skills, thinking skills, motor skills, and social skills, with limited vocabularies for their age.

Late talkers in this stage have a challenge with expressive or spoken language. 

It’s necessary to determine if your child’s vocabulary is appropriate for her age. Suppose they are still struggling to achieve the milestones; it’s good to seek help and clarification from a speech pathologist. 

  • At 18months your baby should use at least 20 words, with different words like verbs (“go”, “eat”), nouns (“cookie”, “baby”), adjectives (“sleepy”, “hot”), prepositions (“up”, “down”) and social words like (“bye”, “hi”). 
  • Use at least 100words at 24months, and combine 2 words. However, the words should be babies’ entire creation and not memorized language works such as “thank you,” “all gone,” “bye-bye.” Correct word examples should be like, “eat a cookie,” “doggie gone,” or “dirty hands,” etc. 

On to the question, “when do late talkers catch up?”. Many late talkers grow out of it, some do not. However, you should not be comfortable with your late talking child, despite performing well in other development areas, hoping h/she will grow out of it.

Again, it’s not easy to foretell the child that will catch up with their peers and the one who won’t. Sometimes your child is most likely to have continuing language difficulties if they have some of these identified risk factors;

  • The baby is quiet as an infant with less babbling
  • If your child uses a few gestures
  • If your child doesn’t imitate or copy words
  • If your child has an ear infection history
  • Has limited consonants sounds e.g. (m, p, b, n, d, t, k, y, g)
  • Mostly uses nouns (people names, things, places), and fewer verbs (action words)
  • Difficulty with social skills like playing
  • The child comes from a family with communication delay academic and learning difficulties
  • Less understanding for his age 

As a parent, it’s good to consult a speech-language pathologist if your child has a limited vocabulary for his age and possesses the above risk factors. Moreover, children who possess comprehension problems, family history, or have few gestures often are at a greater risk of continued language delay. 

5 Useful Tips to Help Late Talking Child at Home

So long as the question “did I cause my child speech delay?” is concerned, many parents will do anything for their children success.  Especially if they have difficulties or challenges. For later talkers’ children’s parents, it is equally the same. And most parents will do their best to hear their children talk, and better catch up with their peers. 

Often as a parent, you are torn between how to choose the right words for your child, how to target them, and sometimes how many times to say them. You will learn some home remedies for a late-talking child in this part. Either who doesn’t talk or speaks in single words. To encourage speaking you can;

1.     Self-talk

Self-talk is one of the simple activities you can do with your child, anywhere, using any material available. In this activity, you get to talk about what you can see, do or hear with your child. For instance, if you are going for a walk in your child’s company, you can talk about what you see along the way (“that is a bird,” “I hear a car,” “I see a tree”). 

Again, you can implement self-talk doing chores. To do this, narrate what you are doing for every step. Like “I am cracking the eggs,” I am mixing the batter,” and many more. Sometimes, you may feel silly about the self-talk at first, but your child is learning from you. This strategy will teach your child new vocabulary and form words into sentences and phrases. 

2.     Parallel Talk

Like self-talk, you need to narrate things that you can see, hear, or do in the parallel talk. However, the main difference between self-talk and parallel talk is that you need to talk about things from your child’s view/perspective in parallel talk. 

For instance, if your child uses blocks to build, you could say, “the tower is big.” With this, you are talking about the things your baby is engaged in, which increases the likelihood of listening to the words and phrases you are saying. The parallel talk will help your child learn the vocabulary more quickly. 

3.     Time delay

As a late talker child-parent, sometimes you are tempted to focus on inundating your child with words and phrases to encourage communication. As much as it’s valuable to encourage communication by talking, it is equally important to be quiet. 

In this technique, you will need to pause or wait for some time to give your child time to attempt communication. During this silence, you should not give any language model, ask questions, or anticipate what your child needs or wants.

For example, when your child is trying to get a snack out of reach, it is easy to help by getting it and giving it to him. But this time, you need to wait and see the activity unfolding. As you do this, you want to see if your child will communicate what they want or need. 

4.     Toy Placement

Commonly, households with children’s toys tend to be easily accessible everywhere. If this is your case, you can move some of your child’s favorite toys within view but out of reach. With this, you encourage your child to ask for them, which can be different depending on your child’s age. 

If your child is not speaking, “asking” for a toy may mean pointing and looking at their toy of choice. Besides, this is the perfect time to model the item’s name, e.g., “a car” or “a block.” 

5.     Choices

Giving your late talker choices is a good way to encourage communication development; good thing it’s as easy as it sounds. To do this, you can start by holding two things, maybe a book and a toy. But ensure they will be of interest to your child. While holding them up, show each of them to your child, naming them. Then proceed to ask your child what they want. 

Most probably, your child will attempt to communicate their preference, maybe by looking at or pointing out what they want, and they should receive it. As you give the item to the child, reinforce the choice by naming the item again. For example, “here is your book.” 

In conclusion, sometimes it can be easy to blame yourself for your child late talking, but you don’t deserve the blame. In this article, you have seen some of the reasons that could cause your child to delay in their speech development.

Again, some late talkers may catch up while others might not. As a child caregiver, it’s always good to seek medical intervention wherever you notice something unusual about your child. Also, you don’t need to carry the blame or allow other “all-knowers” to blame you. 

However, to encourage your child speech development there are a few things you can do to encourage language output. You only need the most comfortable strategy to implement on a day-to-day basis. Please note that there is a benefit in consistency, whereby the more consistent you are, the more likely you are to see the benefits.