Whenever I begin home visits for early intervention with a new child, the parents often pepper me with questions. Is this normal? Why isn’t my child talking? Does this mean something is wrong with him/her? Will s/he have a successful future?
It is understandable that parents feel overwhelmed when their child has a language delay. After all, language is one of the most important skills a child develops, and continues to affect his/ her success in childhood, school, and ultimately, in adulthood as well. So to answer that big “why” here are just five reasons a child may not be talking while his or her age cohorts are.
- Autism. According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2016 survey, 1 in 68 people in America are affected by autism. Autism is a severe developmental disability that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. It is characterized by poor social interaction and eye contact, repetitive activity, and intense interest in a limited quantity of things. There is a vast range of symptoms and a spectrum of disorders. Only a qualified medical professional can diagnose autism. If you are concerned that your child may have autism, don’t delay in bringing this up with your family doctor. Autism is treated in a number of ways, the most prevalently used program is known as Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA.
- Hearing loss caused by middle ear fluid. If your child has frequent ear infections, or even just a persistent “cold,” it is likely that his hearing is somewhat impaired by middle ear fluid. Known in the medical world as otitis media, middle ear fluid may affect your child’s ability to hear soft sounds at the beginning and end of a word, or words spoken quickly in mid-sentence. This can be a contributing factor to language delays. If a child has chronic otitis media, tubes can be placed surgically in the ears to help drain the excess fluid. An early intervention professional can help develop strategies to help your child “catch up” on lost language skills.
- Oral-Motor Disorder. A child with an oral motor disorder has trouble coordinating the parts of mouth needed to create distinct sounds. This child will often demonstrate a far more advanced receptive vocabulary (what s/he can understand) than expressive vocabulary (what s/he can say). A speech and language pathologist can help pinpoint the oral motor challenges your child may be experiencing, and help develop strategies to address these issues.
- Temperament. While looking at a child’s development, it is important to look at the whole child. Temperament is a part of that. Is your child very strong-willed, and used to getting his way? Does he tend to avoid challenging activities or have a short attention span? These elements all play a role in language learning and can contribute to delays. An experienced early intervention professional looks at the whole child and works with his or her unique temperament to help him, or her, overcome language delays.
By Chaya Glatt