Right Start

Identifying Red Flags For Language Delays

Identifying Red Flags For Language Delays

When is it time to seek out professional help for a speech language evaluation at Right Start Inc? The answer may? Not be so cut and dry. 

Most developmental milestone timelines are slightly different for every child. Is their difficulty with communicating a sign of just a late bloomer who will eventually catch up? Does your child exhibit receptive language abilities but lack expressive (spoken) language skills? Or maybe you feel something isn’t right because your child’s speech is different from their siblings or peers?

Late talking, disordered speech and cognitive or communication delays that go untreated for long periods of time can greatly put your child at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to learning and expression. So, when is the right time to seek out professional help?

Speech and language disorders can have a huge effect on a child’s school and life experience. But fear not! The earlier a child’s speech or language impairment is identified, the better the long-term outcome! Even if your child is not in school yet, there are many Early Intervention programs that will help you determine the appropriate therapy approach for your child. 

Here are some warning signs that might indicate a speech or language impairment; if your child shows any of these, talk to their teacher and/or a speech therapist right away!

Warning Signs that should trigger a referral to a Speech and Language Professional:

 Any age

  • Ability to be understood by family, friends, and/or caregivers in the expression of basic needs, preferences, and feelings is reduced

  • Speech is slurred; difficulty controlling breathing for speech; abnormal loudness, rhythm, or vocal quality

  • Produces no meaningful words, or producing sounds that are understood only by family 

  • Speaks loudly in high pitched voice with frequent distortion, omission, and substitution of sounds

  • Sound errors are prevalent but variable (i.e., “dog” could be produced “dog,” “tog,” “gog,” “god” by same child) 

  • Varies from rarely being able to produce sounds to ongoing speech that is rarely understood, or speech that is usually understood with frequent sound errors 

  • Unaware of sound variations or exhibits varying degrees of frustration and/or anxiety regarding inability to “control speech” 

  • Cannot produce movements for sound production, or sounds are produced without voice (whispered speech) 

  • Exhibits frustration and/or avoids talking due to difficulties 

By 12 months

  • Does not point to objects

  • Does not use gestures such as waving or shaking head

By 15 months

  • has not used first word

  • does not respond to “no” and “bye-bye” appropriately

By 18 months

  • does not use at least six to ten words consistently

  • does not appear to turn towards sounds or discriminate between sounds

By 20 months

  • does not use at least six consonant sounds (especially /p, b, m, n, w, h/)

  • does not follow simple directions

By 24 months (2 years)

  • Has a vocabulary of less than 50 words

  • Is less interested in social interactions compared with previously 

By 3 years

  • Cannot be understood by family and/or caregivers more than 50% of the time

  • Cannot correctly produce vowels and/or the consonants p, b, m, w in words 

  • Cannot repeat when not understood without getting frustrated 

By 4 years

  • Cannot be understood by family/strangers more than 75% of the time 

  • Cannot correctly produce t, d, k, g, f 

  • Cannot be asked to repeat without becoming sensitive

By 5 years

  • Cannot be understood in all situations by most listeners 

  • Cannot correctly produce most speech sounds 

  • Cannot be asked to repeat without exhibiting frustration

Recommendations for how you can help

Although you might feel like you don’t know how to help your child’s speech and language development, there are actually many simple things you can do to encourage communication. 

  • Self-Talk: Talk about what you are doing. Describe what you are holding, the actions you are performing, what you see, how you feel, and what you hear, smell, or taste. Talk about all of this! Your child will learn from hearing you talk about all of those things.

  • Expansions: In this strategy, you will build on your child’s speech or gestures. Take whatever your child says and add one word onto it. For example, if your child says “ball”, you could say “want ball”, or any other combination that contains the word ball with one other word.

  • Receptive Vocabulary Building: You can increase your child’s receptive vocabulary by having him point to pictures, objects, or people when you label them for him/her. For example, you can say “Where’s Daddy?” and help them point or look towards Daddy. This is easy to do while reading books.

  • Play Dumb: You can create your own communication opportunities by pretending you don’t know what your child is pointing at or wants and asking them to further explain.

If you have any questions about your child’s speech and language development, please give us a call! We are happy to help guide you along the way.

When a speech or language impairment is identified early, a child can have a much better long-term outcomes.