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Better Hearing & Speech Month: Common disabilities in children

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

With speech and language disorders ranking among the most common disabilities in children, parents and caregivers are encouraged to learn the signs—and seek an evaluation—if they have concerns about their child’s ability to communicate. Memorial Hospital of Chester offers timely guidance for families because May is recognized nationally as Better Hearing & Speech Month.

Development of strong communication skills is extremely important; however, there are common misconceptions about how these skills develop. One is that children generally ‘grow out’ of speech or language difficulties. Unfortunately, this mistaken impression too often delays treatment. Of course, some children are indeed ‘late bloomers,’ yet treatment is frequently necessary, too. Good communication skills are critical, helping with behavior, learning, reading, social skills, and friendships. It is much easier, more effective, and less costly to treat speech and language disorders early—and May is a great time to educate parents on this important point.

Speech and language disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Speech is the ability to produce speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. A child may say sounds the wrong way, repeat sounds and words, or be otherwise difficult to understand. Language is the ability to use and put words together—and to understand others’ words. A child may have trouble understanding questions, following directions, or naming objects. Early speech and language treatment sets a child up for future school and social success.

Heather King, Speech-Language Pathologist at Memorial Hospital of Chester, shares some of the warning signs for parents to watch for in young children:

  • Does not babble (4–7 months)

  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7–12 months)

  • Does not understand what others say (7 months–2 years)

  • Says only a few words (12–18 months)

  • Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1–2 years)

  • Words are not easily understood (18 months–2 years)

  • Does not put words together to make sentences (1.5–3 years)

  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2–3 years)

  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2–3 years)

  • Repeating the first sounds of words, like “b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (any age)

  • Stretching sounds out, like “fffffarm” for “farm” (any age)

For school-age children, warning signs may include the following:

  • Has trouble following directions

  • Has problems reading and writing

  • Does not always understand what others say

  • Is not understood by others

  • Has trouble talking about thoughts or feelings

Heather King, Speech-Language Pathologist

During these unprecedented times of school closures and limited treatment availability, Memorial Hospital of Chester wants parents and caregivers to know that we are here to help. Speech therapy services are available with a referral from your physician. Memorial Hospital of Chester is taking extra precaution to ensure the safety of you, your child, and our staff during these times. If you have additional questions regarding beginning speech therapy services, feel free to contact Heather King, SLP at Therapy & Sports Rehab Clinic at 618-826-4588.

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