All children progress on their own timeline, and it can be difficult for parents to tell whether their child is just a late talker (and will soon be chatting your ear off), or whether there’s a more serious problem that needs professional help.

In this post, I'd like to discuss some of the most common reasons why children may experience a disruption in their speech development. Delays in speech can be caused by a variety of issues, so it's importance to understand each potential cause, as well as why many children benefit from professional evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment from a certified speech therapist.

Common Causes of Speech Delays

Below we've outlined some of the underlying causes of speech delays. If you are concerned about possible delays in your child's verbal skills, it's important to consider each of these possible causes.

  • Oral Impairment: Many kids with speech delays have oral–motor problems. These happen when there's a problem in the areas of the brain responsible for speech. This makes it hard to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw to make speech sounds. These children also might have other oral-motor problems, such as feeding problems

  • Developmental Speech and Language Disorder: Some speech and language disorders involve brain function and may be indicative of a learning disability. Your child may have trouble producing speech sounds, using spoken language to communicate, or understanding what other people are communicating. Speech and language problems are often the earliest sign of a learning disability

  • Hearing Loss: A toddler who can’t hear well, or hears distorted speech, is likely to have difficulty forming words. Hearing loss is often overlooked, but fortunately it’s also easily identifiable. One sign of hearing loss is that your child doesn’t acknowledge a person or object when you name them, but does if you use gestures. However, signs of hearing loss may be very subtle. Sometimes a speech or language delay may be the only noticeable sign

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Speech, language, and communication problems can be early signs of autism

  • Lack of Stimulation: We learn to speak from those around us. Therefore, it’s hard for children to naturally pick up speech or words if they’re not actively engaged. Lack of verbal stimulation can keep a child from reaching developmental milestones

  • Neurological Problems: Certain neurological problems, like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and traumatic brain injury, can affect the muscles needed for speaking

These potential causes of speech and language problems in children provide a good starting point in understanding why speech limitations occur. As mentioned, if you're concerned about your child's speech development it's important to obtain a professional evaluation from a certified speech therapist.  

More Information on Speech Delays

Educating yourself on speech delays is one of the most important things a parent or guardian can do to help their child. Be sure to check out our other posts for more information on speech delays:

What is a Speech Delay and How is it Diagnosed?
Children progress at different rates, and determining whether your child is just a late bloomer or needs professional help isn’t always easy.
How to Tell if Your Child Has a Speech Delay
Determining whether your child is just a late bloomer or needs professional help isn’t always easy. All children progress at different rates and there is a wide-range of what’s considered “normal.”