As we regularly stress in our articles, children don’t conform to anybody’s timetable when it comes to development!
Most children blossom at their own pace and that can mean some develop skills at a faster or slower rate than others.
However, in terms of health and development checks, professionals tend to try and measure aspects of a child’s development in line with averages for their age. One such measure is their development of language and if they appear to be a little behind the curve of averages, a doctor might advise a check for what’s called “language delay”.
What is “language delay”?
This is not a condition. It simply refers to a child where language skills do not appear to be developing at a rate seen in many other children.
In reality, the term might cover one or more of the following where a child is:
- struggling to articulate intelligible word sounds;
- seemingly making no effort to speak at all;
- turning away when people try to speak to them;
- using a very limited vocabulary that is not expanding sufficiently as they age;
- apparently struggling to understand the words of others (where they’re normally considered comprehensible for the child’s age).
All of these symptoms would need to be based upon general averages for the child’s age.
Language delays – meanings
Language delays perhaps most commonly mean nothing. It is simply that the child’s language skills are developing a little more slowly than average.
For example, it has been noted that very young children raised in bilingual households may be quieter and have an apparently slightly reduced early vocabulary in the early stages of language development. Typically, that means nothing and as the child ages things return to within normal ranges.
However, in some cases, language delays might be indicative of one of several underlying conditions including:
- ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders);
- Down’s syndrome;
- intellectual development disorders;
- hearing impairment or deafness.
Diagnosis and treatments
Generally speaking, you may wish to seek medical opinion if:
- at 1 year or so, your child is making no or very few sounds and isn’t pointing or gesturing at things;
- at age 2 – they’re not able to link at least two words together in a simple phrase, aren’t speaking spontaneously (only copying your sounds) or don’t seem to understand very simple questions;
- by 3 years, they’re not able to use a moderately longer sentence, aren’t asking for things or asking questions and show no interest at all in simple books. Most of their words and sentences at this stage should also be intelligible to non-family members;
- at 4 years – they’re not able to use moderately simple tense grammar correctly, saying instead things like “in school today I skip and run”.
If your child manifests these symptoms, don’t panic. They mean nothing in themselves but a quick doctor’s check would be sensible.
In almost all cases, even where intervention is required, there will be therapies to help.