How Common Are Speech Delays?

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When wondering how common are speech delays, the figures are moderately high.

Especially if you were to compare communication disorders to other disorders, speech delays could be considered typical.

Commonly occurring in children, it’s a relatively noticeable issue. Thankfully, as a parent, there are many options to assist your kids.

Are Speech and Language the Same?

Many believe that speech and language are the same when, in fact, they differ significantly.

Knowing the difference is essential when determining whether your child has a speech or language delay or not.

What Is Speech?

Speech is the act of verbally expressing language. This process will include articulating specific words and the sounds produced when words are formed.

It will also include the physical movements and coordinated muscle actions to pronounce the sounds that construct language.

An example is the movement of the vocal tract, lips, tongue, and jaw to produce recognizable sounds.

What Are Speech Delays?

If children are dealing with a speech delay, they could begin using words to express ideas but find it hard to understand them.

They are also known to use phrases that are difficult to understand.

What Is Language?

In contrast, language is the system of which information is conveyed meaningfully. For example, babbling isn’t a language, as it doesn’t have significant meaning behind it.

With language, the speaker will need to understand and communicate verbally, written, and nonverbal.

As mentioned, language can include nonverbal communication, such as signing or making other physical gestures like blinking.

What Are Language Delays?

With language delays, children are bound to pronounce words but cannot put them together cohesively.

Often, they will pronounce words correctly but can only put two words together, rather than a whole idea.

How Common Are Speech Delays?

Below, you will find a few essential statistics from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

  • Eight to nine percent of children have speech sound disorders.
  • By fifth grade, five percent of children have noticeable speech disorders.
  • Between six and eight million Americans have language impairments.
  • The first six months are imperative to a child’s language skill development.

Speech Development Milestones

Knowing the developmental speech milestones for your child based on their age can help you to determine if they are experiencing a speech delay.

There are plenty of milestones that they will need to reach from one to two years of age.

12 to 18 Months

By 12 months, toddlers should be able to recognize and produce a wide range of speech sounds.

You’ll often catch a glimpse of one or two common words, such as “Mama” or “Dada.” You’ll quickly tell that they have a few nouns they use that are essential to their day-to-day life.

Outside of the essential nouns they use frequently, most of your child’s speech will be reduced to babbling.

However, over the following six months, there should be significant signs of their speech developing and becoming more advanced.

Between the ages of 12 and 18 months, you should begin to see the following:

  • Imitating words back and forth as part of a conversation
  • Attempts to copy words spoken by adults
  • Starting to add inflections to their terms, such as audibly adding a “?” to a question
  • Spontaneously using their array of words instead of always repeating yours
  • Combining sounds and gestures as an effort to communicate
  • Ability to follow through with one-step directions, such as “clean up your toys”

18 to 24 Months

At this milestone, the verbal skills of your child should continue to progress.

You’ll find that their personality will begin to have a more substantial role in the words they hear and use most often.

You must keep an eye on how well your child responds to your prompts at this milestone. By now, they should be able to try to respond when you ask questions.

Also, they should start to show significant improvements in terms of doing two-step commands.

Typically, by the age of two (24 months), you can expect to notice some of the following:

  • Adding more complex words to their vocabulary
  • Forming two- to three-word sentences, even if they’re not grammatically correct
  • Being able to use words to identify objects and pictures
  • Recognizing and naming animals and body parts

Two to Three Years

You can expect to see a significant improvement in your child’s speech and vocabulary between two and three years.

Many suggest that a child’s vocabulary expands by up to 200 words during this milestone.

When they reach this milestone, you should expect to notice:

  • Continually learning new words
  • Uses new words regularly
  • Ability to combine two to three words to make sentences
  • Starting to recognize shapes, colors, and shapes
  • Understanding the difference between certain concepts, such as big and small
  • Ability to sing songs and nursery rhymes, as well as recite stories
  • Expressing their feelings with words, even if not grammatically correct

If you have begun to notice that your child lacks many developmental milestones explored above, they could have a speech delay.

It’s essential to consider the following signs and symptoms of a speech delay to determine if you need professional assistance.

how common are speech delays

Signs and Symptoms of a Speech Delay

The most concerning thing to look for is a baby who cannot respond to sound or who isn’t vocalizing.

It can be challenging to know if your child is taking longer to reach their milestone or if its a developmental issue.

Using this general guide, you can know when it’s time to seek counsel from a doctor.

12 to 18 Months

During this period, a few of the most noticeable signs of speech delay include:

  • Inability to use gestures to communicate, such as saying goodbye or pointing
  • Opts to use gestures over verbalization to communicate
  • Finds it difficult to imitate sounds
  • Cannot comprehend and follow through with verbal requests

Two Years

Earlier discussed, by the age of two, there should be significant developments in your child’s speech patterns. If you notice many of these signs, seek help from your doctor.

  • Doesn’t produce phrases or words spontaneously
  • Only imitates actions and speech
  • Inability to use different words or reuses the same sounds and words
  • Cannot communicate orally apart from immediate needs
  • Failure to follow one- or two-step instructions
  • Unusual voice tone, such as being incredibly raspy

Three Years

As the final milestone to consider, by three years of age, your child should be prepared to communicate independently.

The most significant sign of a speech delay include:

  • Parents or caregivers being unable to understand more than 50% of their speech

How Speech Delays Are Diagnosed

If you have begun to suspect that your child is suffering from a speech delay, you might feel overwhelmed.

Fortunately, the diagnostic process is quite simple and can be completed by a specialist.

Most often, your family doctor will refer you to a speech-language pathologist who will conduct the tests.

During your appointment, the specialists will evaluate your child’s language and speech skills regarding their development.

There are plenty of standardized tests to determine which milestones your child falls within for speech development.

A few of the most common ways that speech-language pathologists test for delays include:

  • Receptive language, which is the number of words and commands your child can understand
  • Expressive language, or what your child can say to express their immediate needs and feelings
  • How your child communicates non-verbally
  • Clarity of speech
  • Sound development
  • Oral-motor status (how the tongue, palate, and mouth work to produce speech)

Depending on the results of the standardized tests, you might be referred to visit a speech therapist.

With the help of these professionals, your child will be able to improve the quality of their speech significantly.

Often, you can visit a speech therapist in-office, or you can have them visit your home. Their main objective is to assist your child with their speech and language skills.

They can also provide parents with speech delay exercises to help broaden their child’s speech capabilities at home.

What Causes a Speech Delay?

There are a few reasons your child could be dealing with a speech delay, many of which are physical.

1. Oral Impairment

If your child has shown that they are meeting their other developmental milestones, their speech delay could be from an oral impairment.

This issue could include problems with the tongue or palate and the frenulum, which is the fold of skin beneath the tongue.

Any medical issues that prevent the mouth or tongue from moving correctly for speech production could be significant.

2. Oral-Motor Problems

Apart from oral impairment, oral-motor problems are another common issue for children with speech impairments.

There could be problems in the brain area where speech is constructed, making it tough for them to coordinate themselves physically.

For example, if there is damage, the body could be unable to move the jaw, lips, and tongue to make sounds.

It’s relatively easy to spot oral-motor problems contributing to speech delays because children will also have issues while eating.

3. Hearing Impairments

One of the essential parts of developing speech is hearing, which is why hearing issues can cause delayed speech.

Depending on the findings of the speech-language pathologist, your child could be recommended to visit an audiologist.

These professionals will test the hearing of your child when there’s a possible speech concern.

Most often, audiologists are used when kids have issues with imitating, understanding, and using casual language.

They can also suggest apps for speech-delayed toddlers to help assist with speech therapy.

Final Thoughts

With eight to nine percent of children dealing with speech delays, it’s easy to answer how common are speech delays?

By paying close attention to your children’s developmental milestones, you can know when to seek help from a doctor.

Depending on the medical concern, specialists can work to help make speech more accessible for your kids.