How Do I Know if My Child Has a Communication Disorder?
The ability to communicate is one of Hashem’s most precious gifts to man. It takes experience and time for a child to learn to express his ideas and his needs in words so that others can understand him. Language is a process that most children learn on their own. However, for some children the process of mastering language is not self-initiated. This may be due to various factors, such as individual differences, behavior and environment. Whatever the reason, these children need some special help to overcome their delay.
Children with communication disorders have deficits in their ability to exchange information with another person. A communication disorder can occur in speech, language or hearing. In discussing methods of helping a child in developing adequate language skills, we often use the terms “speech” and “language.” Although they are inter-related, it is important to understand the difference between them.
Speech is the articulation of sounds. The way we place and move our tongue, lips, teeth and jaw are important in producing sounds (p, b, k, t, etcֹ) to form words.
Language is the message that is conveyed by a speaker to a listener. Language can be subdivided into two categories:
• Receptive Language relates to the understanding of language.
• Expressive Language relates to the way the child communicates by using words and sentences.
Hearing is the child’s first connection with the talking world. First, he becomes aware that sounds exist, and then, that sounds actually mean something. Finally, he learns that when he makes sounds that resemble those he has heard from others, people will understand him.
A child with a communication disorder can have difficulty in any or all of these areas. If he cannot hear well, he will have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between sounds, understanding what they mean, and learning to say them himself. If he cannot speak and make sounds clearly enough for people to understand him, he will have trouble expressing his ideas. If the child does not master language, spoken sounds may not mean much to him. Specialized instruction and guidance from a speech and language pathologist can be very helpful to such a child.
It is very important for parents to realize that they are not to blame for a child’s delay in communicating. It is not because they are doing something wrong. Communication disorders occur from many different conditions. It is partly because of the way the child perceives and reacts to his environment.
Tips for Parents
• Listen to your child. Encourage and praise him.
• Don’t appear anxious about his speech or try to correct him.
• Don’t make him speak or recite before strangers or visitors
unless he wishes to do so.
• Try to keep your own speech clear and unhurried.
• When your child mixes up words in a sentence repeat the
sentence back correctly. You do not need to tell them that
what they said was wrong.
• Remember that hesitations are normal between 3-6 years of
• Read, read, read! Reading books together with your child is a
wonderful opportunity for special time together and will
enhance your child’s vocabulary. Ask questions as you go
along. Let them try to guess the next part of the story.
• If you are very concerned, consult a speech and language
pathologist for help.
General Guidelines for Speech and Language Acquisition
Generally, children should make the following sounds correctly by ages indicated:
3-4 years - m, b, n, t, p, d, k, g, w, h, and vowels.
5-6 years - sh, ch, l, l blends (i.e. black, fly)
7 years - v, j, th, s, z, r, s blends (stick, slow), r blends (i.e. broom, great).
Vocabulary and Language Acquisition
12-18 months First words
2 years 2 word sentences
3 years 3-4 word sentences 400-900 word vocabulary
5 years 5 to 6 word sentences, 1500-2500 word vocabulary
After age 5 the child rapidly advances.
If your child displays any of the following behaviors, it does not necessarily mean that there is a speech and language delay, however, a professional evaluation is suggested:
• The child is not talking by age 2.
• Speech is difficult to understand after age 3.
• The child uses mostly vowel sounds after age 3.
• The child omits beginning sounds after age 3.
• There are many substitutions of sounds at age 5
• Word endings are often dropped after age 5.
• Words are left out, mixed up or ungrammatical in sentences
at age 5.
• The child has difficulty with speech sounds at age 7. The
child’s voice is too loud, too soft or monotone.
• The child displays frequent repetitions of sounds or words.
• The child displays attention difficulties, is fidgety and