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Speech and Language Difficulties (Children)


Language is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, enabling us to express our needs, thoughts, feelings and experiences. As a caregiver, you play a crucial role in nurturing your child's ability to communicate.

The rate of speech and language development varies among children and is influenced by several factors, including:

  • Inherent ability to learn language
  • Hearing ability
  • Motor skills, such as walking, jumping, writing and self-feeding
  • The Frequency and quality of language exposure

If a child's speech and language development is slower than usual, it may indicate a speech or language difficulty.

Signs And Symptoms Of Speech And Language Difficulties

By 18 months

  • Uses fewer than three to 20 single words (e.g. papa, mama, ball)
  • Does not use pointing to communicate needs or interests
  • Cannot follow simple one-step instructions (e.g. "take bottle," "give papa")

By 2 to 3 years

  • Unable to name body parts or familiar items
  • Does not use two- to four-word phrases (e.g. "kick ball," "I eat biscuit," "mummy, push blue car")
  • Cannot answer simple present-tense questions (e.g. "what… doing?" or "where is the ball?")
  • Does not follow two-step related instructions (e.g. "take your towel and go shower")

By 4 to 5 years

  • Uses shorter sentences compared to peers
  • Unable to tell simple stories or describe daily routines (e.g. how to make a sandwich, going to toilet)
  • Limited vocabulary range regarding common objects, actions, shapes, colours, animals, prepositions (e.g. under/ in front) and concepts (e.g. long/short)
  • Does not use or understand pronouns (e.g. I, you, he, she)
  • Struggles with 'WH' questions (i.e. who, what, where, when, why)

All ages

  • Loss of previously acquired language skills
Diagnosis And Treatment Options For Speech And Language Difficulties

If you are concerned about your child's language development, consult a paediatrician or seek advice from a speech therapist.

A speech therapist will:

  • Assess your child's level language understanding and usage
  • Analyse child speech patterns in various contexts
  • Determine factors affecting language development
  • Recommend next steps, including language stimulation strategies and potential enrolment in early intervention programmes

Regular monitoring of your child's progress is essential.

Tips For Taking Care Of Children With Speech And Language Difficulties

To support speech and language development:

  • Regularly talk and read to your child, starting as early as six weeks
  • Engage your child learns in daily interactions with adults, describing activities and surroundings
  • Limit screen time to encourage more interactive play and communication 

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