Signs of a Language Disorder - Advance Your Speech
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Signs of a Language Disorder

Do you have a child 3 years old or younger? Are you worried because your child doesn’t seem to listen? Has your child started to say any words? Does your child cry a lot or have tantrums? Your child may have early signs of a speech, language, or hearing disorder.


My 2½-year-old, Evan, doesn’t talk at all. He doesn’t respond when I call his name. He turns the pages of a book, but doesn’t pay any attention when I read to him. He shows me what he wants, but doesn’t use words. He doesn’t do what I ask him to do. He gets upset when I don’t understand him. Is this normal? Does he just need more time to catch up?


Don’t wait and hope your child will outgrow a communication problem. Early detection leads to early treatment. The earlier you get help for your child, the better.


Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and audiologists can help your infant or toddler who has a speech, language, or hearing disorder. SLPs help with language disorders, speech sound disorders, stuttering (disfluency), and voice disorders.


Identify the Signs


Here are some of the signs to help you determine if your child has a speech, language, or hearing disorder. More information about identifying the signs of communication disorders is available at Identify The Signs.


Signs of a Language Disorder


  • Doesn’t smile or interact with others (birth–3 months)
  • Doesn’t babble (4–7 months)
  • Makes few sounds (7–12 months)
  • Does not use gestures (e.g., waving, pointing) (7–12 months)
  • Doesn’t understand what others say (7 months–2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)
  • Doesn’t put words together to make sentences (1½–3 years)
  • Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2–3 years)
  • Has problems with early reading and writing skills—for example, may not show an interest in books or drawing (2½–3 years)


Ways to Help With Language Disorders


  • Listen and respond to your child
  • Talk, read, and play with your child
  • Communicate with your child in the language that you are most comfortable using
  • Know that it’s good to teach your child to speak a second language
  • Talk about what you are doing and what your child is doing
  • Use a lot of different words with your child
  • Use longer sentences as your child gets older
  • Have your child play with other children


Signs of a Speech Sound Disorder


  • Says pbmh, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)
  • Says kgftd, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)


Ways to Help With Speech Sound Disorders


  • Say the sounds correctly when you talk—it’s okay if your child makes some mistakes with sounds
  • Don’t correct speech sounds—it’s more important to let your child keep talking


Signs of Stuttering (Disfluency)


  • Struggles to say sounds or words (2½–3 years)
  • Repeats first sounds of words—”b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (2½–3 years)
  • Pauses a lot while talking (2½–3 years)
  • Stretches sounds out—”f-f-f-f-farm” for “farm” (2½–3 years)


Ways to Help With Stuttering or Disfluency


  • Give your child time to talk
  • Do not interrupt or stop your child while he or she is speaking
  • See an SLP if you are concerned (Many young children stutter for a short period of time; in most cases, the stuttering will stop.)