Justina Su, Speech & Language Therapist from The Child Development Centre (an affiliation of SBCC Baby & Child Clinic), shares why speech therapy can help.
How do I know if my child suffers from speech delay?
It is considered a delay when your child does not develop the skills or milestones expected for his age. The following are common signs of a delay:
- Doesn’t use common gestures like waving “bye bye” or point at things
- Doesn’t babble as if he is ‘talking’ to you e.g. bababa, mamama
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name or recognize familiar adults’ names
- Doesn’t direct his communication to you to let you know his needs
- Hasn’t attempted to say his first words
- Unable to identify common body parts
- Says fewer than 100 words
- Unable to combine two words most of the time
- Doesn’t copy words and actions readily
- Doesn’t engage in pretend play, feeding a doll
- Doesn’t use sentences combining more than three words
- Doesn’t have adult-like grammar in sentences, e.g. two dogs
- Unable to story-tell or tell you what happened recently
- Doesn’t ask questions
What are some common causes for speech and language problems?
Speech and language delays or disorders can occur alone for unknown reasons, lack of exposure to a language-rich environment, or secondary to issues such as behavioural problems, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (such as autism spectrum disorder), Global Developmental Delay, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, cleft palate or hearing loss.
The caregiver or teacher may notice that the child is not speaking as well as other children of the same age or doesn’t participate in the group appropriately. Some parents say it is very difficult to understand their child’s speech. Such problems range from phonological or articulation disorders (an inability to say affected sounds correctly in words), childhood apraxia of speech (problems in planning and executing the oral movements precisely for speech to occur), social skills impairment, specific language impairment (difficulty expressing themselves and/or understanding others) to just a delay.
How can parents help?
Spend time interacting with them and immerse them in a language-rich environment. Any form of interaction in a playful manner with your child, such as diaper changing and taking a shower, is an invaluable opportunity for him to learn language from you. While most of the disorders have no known cure, parents must be vigilant and alert the child’s paediatrician of any valid concerns. Early referral to an appropriate early childhood services can help minimize the effects of any communication barrier.
Children with delays may eventually catch up with their peers, but help can speed up the process and they can make significant gains. This ensures they have a good grounding in language. The first five years of your child’s life are the most important periods for brain development and building skills. If parents take a “wait and see” approach, precious time that could be better spent focusing on stimulating your child’s language development would be lost during the critical learning phase. The child who is already experiencing difficulties communicating socially may further lag behind other children, as he doesn’t participate as much in play activities.
A three-year-old boy was referred to our centre for suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder due to poor social interaction with severe speech and language delay. He responded well to early intervention, focusing on knowing how to engage with adults. His parents also interacted with him more frequently. After six months, he has progressed in playing and talking with others. This helped to increase his vocabulary. His development now is almost on par with his peers, although he still needs practice to use language in new communicative situations.
How can Speech-Language Therapy at The Child Development Centre help my child?
We work with infants and children up to 16 years old with conditions such as Dysphagia,language comprehension, language expression, speech and articulation, stuttering voice disorder and feeding problems. Appropriate and fun activities are developed for each child to help him overcome his difficulties.
About The Child Development Centre
The Child Development Centre at Novena Medical Centre is a one-stop provider of assessment & therapy services for children with learning & developmental difficulties. The centre adopts a multidisciplinary approach by a team of specialists to assess the child, and develop the most appropriate treatment plan to help the child overcome his difficulties. The team, consisting of paediatricians, child psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech & language therapists and dieticians, is able to deliver comprehensive medical and therapy services at one location.
For enquiries or appointments, email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Child Development Centre is an approved Early Intervention Programme (EIP) registered under the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Parents will be able to utilize Baby Bonus funds at the centre.
Thomson Paediatric Centre (The Child Development Centre)
10 Sinaran Drive, #09-04 Novena Medical Centre