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Does My Child Have Delayed Speech or Language Development?

Does My Child Have Delayed Speech or Language Development?

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Parenting is no joke, my friend! There are so many challenges that parents face on a daily basis that can make you want to pull your hair out.


First of all, there's the sleep deprivation. When you have a newborn or a young child, you can say goodbye to a good night's sleep for a while. You're constantly getting up to feed, change diapers, and deal with any other issues that might arise. It can be exhausting!

Then there's the issue of discipline. It's not always easy to know how to handle your child's misbehavior. You want to be firm but fair, and you don't want to come off as too harsh or too lenient. Plus, kids are smart and can figure out how to push your buttons in ways you didn't even know existed!

Another challenge is trying to balance work and family life. It can be tough to juggle a full-time job with taking care of your kids. You want to be there for them as much as possible, but you also need to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. It's a delicate balancing act that can be stressful and overwhelming.

And let's not forget about the emotional challenges of parenting. Watching your child struggle with something or seeing them upset can be heart-wrenching. You want to be there to support them and help them through it, but it's not always easy to know the right thing to say or do.

When things don’t go the way you expect, it can be a cause for concern. If your child isn’t speaking as early or clearly as you would expect, it can be alarming. In this article, we want to help you understand delayed speech and language development, and what you can do about it. 

What Is Delayed Speech/Delayed Language Development?

Delayed speech and delayed language development are both terms used to describe a situation where a child is not meeting typical milestones for their age in terms of their ability to communicate verbally.

Delayed speech specifically refers to a situation where a child's ability to speak is not developing at the same rate as their peers. This can mean that the child is not using as many words as expected for their age or that their speech is difficult to understand.

Delayed language development is a broader term that encompasses delays not only in speaking but also in other aspects of language, such as understanding and using grammar, vocabulary, and nonverbal communication (such as gestures and facial expressions).

Both delayed speech and delayed language development can be caused by a variety of factors, including hearing loss, cognitive or developmental delays, and neurological conditions such as autism. Early intervention and therapy can be effective in helping children with delayed speech and language development to catch up to their peers and develop the communication skills they need to succeed.

The signs of delayed speech and delayed language development can vary depending on the child's age and the severity of the delay, but here are some general signs to look out for:

Signs of delayed speech:

  • Not babbling or making many sounds by nine months: Babies typically start to make sounds and babble around six months of age. By nine months, they should be making a variety of sounds, including consonant and vowel sounds.
  • Not saying any words by 16 months: Most children say their first word between 12 and 15 months of age. If a child is not saying any words by 16 months, it could be a sign of delayed speech.
  • Using fewer than 50 words by two years: By two years of age, most children are saying simple two-word phrases and have a vocabulary of about 50 words.
  • Having difficulty putting words together to form simple sentences by three years: By three years of age, children should be able to form simple sentences of three to four words, such as "I want juice" or "Mommy, go work."
  • Being difficult to understand by people outside of their immediate family: While it is common for young children to be difficult to understand at times, if a child is consistently difficult to understand by people outside of their immediate family, it could be a sign of delayed speech.

Signs of delayed language development:

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months: By 12 months of age, most children will turn their head and look when someone calls their name.
  • Not following simple commands by 18 months: By 18 months of age, most children can follow simple one-step commands, such as "Bring me the ball."
  • Having difficulty understanding basic concepts, such as "in," "on," and "under": As children get older, their understanding of language should become more sophisticated. By three years of age, for example, most children should be able to understand basic spatial concepts like "in," "on," and "under."
  • Struggling to use age-appropriate grammar, such as verb tense and pronouns: As children get older, their use of grammar should become more accurate and complex. For example, by four years of age, most children should be able to use the past tense correctly.
  • Having trouble communicating their needs and desires effectively: Children with delayed language development may have difficulty expressing themselves and getting their needs met. They may become frustrated or act out due to their inability to communicate effectively.

What to Do if You See the Signs of Delayed Speech or Language Development

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to seek an evaluation from a pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist to determine if your child has a speech or language delay, and what can be done to help them. Early intervention is key to improving outcomes for children with delayed speech and language development.

How Tongue Thrust Impacts Speech Development

Tongue thrust, also known as an orofacial myofunctional disorder, is a pattern of swallowing and/or tongue positioning where the tongue protrudes through the front teeth during swallowing or at rest. This can affect speech development in a number of ways:

  1. Articulation difficulties: The position of the tongue during speech production is critical for the correct pronunciation of many sounds. If the tongue is not in the correct position, it can cause a lisp, distortions of speech sounds, or difficulty producing certain sounds.
  2. Speech clarity: Tongue thrust can also cause the child to have poor speech clarity, making it difficult for others to understand what they are saying. This can be due to the excessive air flow caused by the tongue thrusting habit that can cause certain sounds to be omitted or over-emphasized.
  3. Difficulty with sounds: If a child is struggling to produce certain speech sounds due to tongue thrust, it can also delay their speech development. This can result in the child not meeting expected speech milestones, which can cause frustration and difficulty with communication.
  4. Mouth breathing: Tongue thrust can also cause children to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose. Mouth breathing can cause a variety of health issues, including dry mouth, bad breath, and dental problems.
  5. Social interaction: Difficulties with speech and communication can affect a child's social interaction with peers and adults, which can impact their self-esteem and emotional development.

Tongue thrust therapy can be effective in treating the effects of tongue thrust on speech development. The therapy is focused on retraining the muscles of the mouth, including the tongue, to function properly. This can help the child produce speech sounds more accurately and improve overall speech clarity. 

If you suspect that your child has tongue thrust, it is important to seek an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Here are some signs of tongue thrust to look out for:

  • Open mouth posture: A person with tongue thrust may frequently have their mouth open or their lips apart. This may also cause the lips to be dry or chapped.
  • Forward tongue placement: The tongue may be positioned forward in the mouth and may rest between or against the front teeth or on the roof of the mouth.
  • Speech difficulties: Tongue thrust can affect speech development, resulting in difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or words. A lisp or other distortions of speech sounds may be present.
  • Dental malocclusion: Tongue thrust can cause malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and jaws. This can cause problems with biting, chewing, and swallowing.
  • Sucking habits: People with tongue thrust may also have a tendency to suck their thumb, fingers, or pacifiers past the typical age of weaning.
  • Sleep breathing issues: Some people with tongue thrust may also have sleep breathing issues, such as snoring or sleep apnea, due to mouth breathing or the tongue obstructing the airway.
  • Swallowing difficulties: Tongue thrust can cause difficulty swallowing or the feeling of food getting stuck in the throat. This is due to the tongue not functioning properly during the swallowing process.
  • Excessive drooling: Young children with tongue thrust may have excessive drooling due to their open mouth posture and difficulty with swallowing.
  • Head and neck posture: People with tongue thrust may have poor head and neck posture due to the compensation of the body for the poor tongue positioning. This can cause tension and discomfort in the head, neck, and shoulder muscles.
  • Discomfort or pain in the mouth: Tongue thrust can cause discomfort or pain in the mouth, such as soreness on the tongue, gums, or inner cheeks, due to the constant contact of the tongue with the teeth.
  • Unusual tongue movements: A person with tongue thrust may have a tongue that moves in unusual ways, such as pressing against the teeth or pushing outwards against the lips.

It is important to note that not all of these signs may be present in every case of tongue thrust, and some of these signs may also be present in other speech or dental conditions.

Also, not all open mouth postures, speech difficulties, or sucking habits are indicative of tongue thrust, as these behaviors can have other causes as well. 

For a child with delayed speech or language development, it will be difficult to experience language improvements without correcting the source of the issue. 

IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust 

This program is the only solution of its kind. Our seven-week tongue exercise program has proven results in correcting a tongue thrust and fixing an incorrect tongue position. 

This is achieved by creating the new tongue position as a habit and strengthening the tongue muscles with targeted exercises. When this occurs, nasal breathing should take the place of mouth breathing while sleeping to stop snoring and other mouth-breathing side effects.

If you want to know more about our tongue thrust exercise program, reach out to us or purchase our program today!

Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.