Language Delay in Toddlers: 7 Signs to Watch Out For

Learning Spanish As A Child
dealing with speech delays in toddlers

Children pick up language and other skills at their own pace, and no two kids have the same progress. However, you can pay attention to different language development milestones so you’ll know what your little one can achieve when they reach a certain age.

But in some cases, there can be delays in these milestones — and one of the most common is language. Recognizing the signs can help you know if it’s something to be concerned about.

This article outlines all you need to know about speech delays, such as their causes, signs, and how to help your child.

What is Language Delay?

Language delay is one of the most common developmental delays in children. It happens when your child (at a certain age) finds it hard to understand a language and/or communicate with words.

Any significant changes in language development usually happens when your child is between 18-30 months old. If your child is experiencing a language delay, they may struggle to learn a language or properly express themselves with words. For example, when they speak out, it may come out as gibberish.

Even though it’s not uncommon to experience these delays, you’ll still need to pay attention to your child’s speech milestones. After all, experiencing communication issues could affect their daily lives.

What Causes Language Delays in Toddlers?

Understanding the causes of language delays makes it easier for you to provide support. Listed below are the common causes you need to watch out for:

Oral-Motor Problems

Your child may experience a language delay if they have problems developing oral motor skills. These skills use the lips, tongue, jaws, and cheeks to bite, chew, and move the mouth. If they have issues here, your child may have difficulty pronouncing words and syllables.

Let’s say your child has an oral impairment with their palate or tongue. A short frenulum (or the fold underneath the tongue), for example, can restrict tongue movement and make it hard to form words. 

Hearing Problems

To learn is to listen. If your little one has a hearing problem, it could be harder for them to learn and understand a language. 

If you suspect your child is experiencing a language delay, see a doctor to check for potential ear problems. Scheduling a check-up will ensure that your child receives the proper care so they can avoid further speech delays.

Previous Family History

Your family history could contribute to language delay. After all, late talkers are more likely to face delays in language if their parents have also experienced learning difficulties.

What are the Signs of Language Delay in Toddlers?

Knowing the tell-tale signs of language delay can help you provide support and seek immediate help. Just take note that these signs could be different between children since it depends on their age and language milestones.

Your child may be facing language and speech delays if they’re experiencing trouble in these areas:

  1. Recognizing & Mimicking Speech Sounds

  2. Kids with delayed language skills fail to notice different speech sounds. For example, they might recognize the sound of a car horn but are unable to respond when someone calls their name.

    Because of this, your child can only imitate a few speech sounds. For instance, they could be limited to ABCs, numbers, and consonant sounds.

  3. Making Gestures

  4. If your child is 12 months old and still uses little to no gestures, it could be a sign of a language delay. On the flip side, it’s also concerning if your child prefers to use gestures over words when they reach 18 months old.

  5. Forming Simple Phrases

  6. Aside from gestures, you’ll need to pay attention to your toddler’s speech patterns. For instance, if your child can’t string words into simple phrases or sentences, it could be one of the signs of language delay in two-year-olds.

  7. Expressing Themselves Out Loud

  8. Delays in language development could make your child struggle when expressing themselves. This situation can be frustrating and potentially lead to behavioral problems later in life.

  9. Understanding Easy Words 

  10. Children with speech and language delays may understand words slower than their peers. They might get lost following simple sentences that other kids their age could have already understood.

  11. Following Simple Instructions

  12. At age two, your child should understand and follow simple requests. However, even the easiest instructions can be confusing if your child experiences language delays.

  13. Playing With Peers

  14. Language helps toddlers interact with other kids. But because of issues in speech, your child may face a hard time talking to and connecting with their peers.

How Can You Help Your Child With Speech Delays?

Your support as a parent is crucial to helping your child overcome challenges related to speech. Help your child catch up with these tips:

  • Communicate with your child. Turn it into a game and let your child imitate your sounds and gestures. You can sing along to nursery rhymes or talk about their interests.
  • Read more books. If your child is struggling with vocabulary, books are your best friend! It’s best to start healthy reading habits at a young age and continue with age-appropriate books as they grow older.
  • Practice saying everyday words. Use day-to-day examples to build your child’s speech and language skills. For instance, you can point out food items in a grocery store or explain how to bake a cookie.
  • Get professional help. If the language delay persists, it’s best to seek professional help. This may involve getting your child to participate in programs to address the delays.

Support Your Child with a Speech Delay

Ultimately, parents know their children best. Once you know the signs, you can identify the different ways in dealing with speech delays in toddlers. Just remember that you don’t have to face the problem alone: you’re always free to seek professional help if your little one still struggles to learn and understand language. 

For more insights on early childhood development, visit the Rayito de Sol blog.

March 1, 2022