Is Delayed Speech a Sign of Autism?

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Speech is a vital part of a child’s overall development.

It is one of the earliest signs of communication, so if a child struggles with speech, it can translate to other underlying major conditions.

If your child’s language development seems a little late for their age, you must understand the root cause of it.

Is delayed speech a sign of autism? What are the other possible causes of delayed speech?

More importantly, what can you do as a parent to address this?

Common Symptoms of Delayed Speech

The capacity to determine whether or not your child’s speech is delayed is just as crucial as addressing it.

You need to be sure about your child’s condition to carry out appropriate techniques in dealing with it.

That said, here are some signs that may indicate speech delay in children.

At Two Years Old

By the time your child reaches the age of two, they should be able to speak at least 25 words.

This number can further grow to 95 words, especially in girls.

If your child’s vocabulary is less than 25 words at 24 months, it may be a sign of delayed speech.

At 30 Months

At the beginning of two years of age up to two and a half or 30 months, your child should already begin using telegraphic speech.

It refers to the use of phrases to communicate emotions.

Their sentences may not be grammatically correct, but they must contain the necessary words to convey meaning.

If telegraphic speech is not observable past 30 months old, delayed language development is a possible cause.

At Three Years Old

Your child’s telegraphic speech may still be difficult for you to understand.

However, it should improve by the time they reach three years of age.

A child should be able to communicate comprehensively and may even start forming grammatically correct sentences.

Additionally, he should also be able to say at least 200 words and ask for things by their names.

If any of these things aren’t observable in your child’s language pattern, their speech may be delayed.

Is Delayed Speech a Sign of Autism?

As with any parent who loves their children dearly, you might have asked yourself this question upon noticing that your child seems to be struggling with speech.

So, is delayed speech a sign of autism? The answer is both yes and no.

More often than not, children with autism will exhibit delays in language development.

However, not all children who are having trouble with speech have autism.

In simpler words, just because your child’s speech is delayed does not mean they have autism.

There are other possible causes of delayed speech, which we’ll discuss further below.

Possible Causes of Delayed Speech

Speech delays aren’t always definitive that your child’s speech will be behind others forever.

Some children catch up to their milestones as they grow.

However, this could be particularly challenging if there is an underlying condition that’s causing the speech delay.

Here are the possible causes of your child’s impediment in language development.

is delayed speech a sign of autism

Problems with the Mouth

Physical conditions may cause problems in language development.

For instance, some children are born with their tongues attached to their mouths’ floor, a condition is called ankyloglossia.

Because of this, it may be harder for them to pronounce words that include the letters D, L, R, S, T, Z, and the sound th.

For non-serious concerns, tools like Ark’s Z-Vibe Sensory Oral Motor Kit can help address the issue.

Hearing Loss

One crucial part of language development is learning it from other people.

Therefore, children who have difficulty hearing or only hear distorted speech will also have trouble comprehending it.

As a result, it would be significantly more challenging for them to form words.

If your child tends to understand your speech when you include gestures but not without them, it might be a symptom of hearing loss.

One problem with this is that we almost always use gestures when we speak.

That’s why it’s particularly difficult to determine whether or not your child has hearing problems.

Because of how subtle the hints are, it’s much too common that parents only discover their child’s hearing loss after the speech delay is evident.

Not Enough Stimulation

In some cases, the child’s parents and environment negatively contribute to their speech impairment.

As with almost any skill we learn, the adage remains true that practice makes perfect.

It would be challenging for children to develop their language if no one talks to or interacts with them.

This lack of stimulation eventually leads to speech delay.

If this continues, the child may also suffer from the inability to reach developmental milestones.

Together with speech, the child’s social, emotional, and mental skills or health may also be underdeveloped.

Neurological Condition

Worst-case scenarios of speech delay may be rooted in certain neurological conditions.

Some neurological problems affect brain muscles that are necessary to develop speech.

Examples of these conditions include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or traumatic brain injury.

In children who suffer from apraxia of speech, or the inability to do familiar movements on command, this kit from TalkTools is a must-have.


While speech delay does not always and necessarily mean that a child has autism, it is, unfortunately, a possibility.

Signs of autism spectrum disorder in children include problems with verbal and nonverbal communication as well as regression of speech and language.

Echolalia, or the tendency of a child to repeat phrases instead of creating new ones, is also one tell-tale sign.

If you’d like to learn more about possible language disorders your child may have, it would help to read books on the subject, such as Nickola Wolf Nelson’s Language and Literacy Disorders: Infancy Through Adolescence.

How Can Parents Address Speech Delay?

As mentioned earlier, parents and a child’s environment can significantly affect their ability to develop language.

Here are some ways you can encourage speech growth:

Maximize Communication

The most important part of developing your child’s speech is to maximize all opportunities to communicate with them.

Make sure that you spend time and effort talking with them throughout the day.

Using gestures or singing to them will also help develop their ability to use and comprehend language.

Read to Your Child

One of the best practices you can do to encourage your child’s language development is to read to them.

It provides both of you with an avenue to explore words and associate meaning to sounds.

If possible, read books with pictures so that you’re not only providing them with auditory cues but visual cues as well.

Simple but Correct Speech

Since your child’s speech is still at an early age, it might be harder for them to comprehend complex sentences.

That’s why it will also be helpful if you only use simple words.

However, make sure not to use baby talk, as this can further delay your child’s ability to use proper speech.

Speech Therapy

If none of these things work, you can always consult a medical professional.

Some cases of speech delay are rooted in underlying health conditions.

Seeking the help of a speech therapist will allow you to address major concerns before they get even more serious.

Speech Delay Does Not Always Mean Autism

Communication is an essential piece of a child’s holistic development.

Without it, they will face numerous challenges that can further hinder their growth.

That’s why it’s vital that you encourage speech and address concerns that may deter their language development.

In a nutshell, delayed speech is not always a sign of autism. However, in some cases, it could mean that your child is on the spectrum.

If you notice your child struggling to speak, make sure you follow the things we’ve listed here to address this concern.