Language Delay: How to address it

Causes of language delay

Language acquisition in the child is a complex process that begins with the first communicative interactions that the adult has with the child long before the child is able to master language. Not all children acquire language at the same rate, for this reason it is considered that there is a delay in language when there is a gap in the development of this with the ages that are considered normal.

When we speak of language delay, this can be simple, when it is only a developmental gap (for example, the first words do not appear before the age of 2 years when the normal age would be between 10-18 months) or severe as would be a dysphasia or audiomudez. The language delay affects the vocabulary, which is limited, the construction of sentences and statements, the speech and its organization.

Often language delay is associated with motor delay: these are children who acquire walking later, have more difficulty in the coordination and precision of movements and have a poorly structured body scheme.

The etiology is also very varied and ranges from difficulties in auditory perception (such as hearing loss due to recurrent otitis), neurological problems, a poor linguistic environment, lack of stimulation, bilingualism, affective factors, etc…

Diagnosis of language delay in a patient

The diagnosis of a language delay is not simple and involves referral to different specialties such as otolaryngology, neurology, psychology and speech therapy. Each of the professionals should perform the examinations they consider most appropriate for the diagnosis.

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Treatment of language delay

No two children are alike and no two language delays are alike, so treatment should always be individualized and take into account the needs of each particular case.

If we take into account what has been said, in a very general and rough way, the basic aspects to work on are the three levels of language: form, content and use.

At the same time, other aspects to be taken into consideration are attention, perception, discrimination and auditory memory.

As a treatment for language delay, specialists in Speech Therapy and Phoniatrics recommend working on the psychomotor part, both fine and gross. Another aspect to work on will be the social environment closest to the child, giving guidelines to the family to correct unfavorable situations or aspects (overprotection, demands, lack of stimulation, etc.).

Consequences of language delay if not treated in time

Within the overall development of the child, language acquisition is just one aspect, so a delay in language may affect the development of other cognitive areas, motor skills, emotional development and social relationships and interaction. Learning, such as literacy, in the school environment will also be affected.

Prevention of language delay

Taking into account that the etiology of a language delay is very diverse, it is difficult to prevent it due to the many factors that can intervene. It is very important that the child has an affective environment and adequate stimulation from birth.