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An amazing experience in every parent’s life is hearing their child speak for the first time. The first utter of “dada” or “ma-ma” is remarkable. This is the first step in a child’s life to be able to verbalize with the world and explain his or her needs. The extraordinary part is how fast a child grasps language and the grammar that goes along with it. The normal age for children to start using words in the correct context is 12 months. Then there is an exponential growth in vocabulary and by 24 months children are stringing three or four words together to create sentences. By the age of three, children have the ability to ask questions, answer questions, and express themselves. This of course is for a normal developing child. For children with a delay in speech capability these milestones take a much longer time to reach and make it difficult for children to communicate their needs. This becomes problem if it goes untreated because of difficulties with school and social situations, the child also has difficulty asking for what he or she needs. There are many explanations to why this happens, hearing loss, bodily trauma such as traumatic brain injury, and apraxia are just a few of the multitude of reasons a child can be delayed in speech. Having an evaluation by a speech pathologist is the best way to see if a child has a speech delay or a learning disability because some of the same symptoms can mean either or both. The sooner the speech delay is recognized the better because the best treatment can be assessed and the delay can be monitored, and evaluated to see if treatment is necessary. If treatment is necessary the speech pathologist can decide the best method for the child depending on the severity and age of the child. This gives the child the best opportunity to recover from this either speech delay or speech impairment.
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Statement of the Problem
Being able to understand young children can be challenging because their language skills have not fully developed. This is difficult, but what is more difficult is when a child has a delay in language and speech development. This is frustrating for the speaker and for the listener to understand what the speaker’s needs and wants are. This makes learning difficult and if these language problems are not eradicated many children go into special education because of their inabilities to use their language skills correctly. “McCormack. McLeod, McAllister, and Harrison (2010), found that both the young people and their significant others acknowledged the importance of appropriately understanding and responding to communication needs in order to create a positive QOL” (p. 386). The children are aware that their speech impairments or disorders can affect how they live their lives and the opportunities that they can lose it their speech issues go unattended as well. The methods used to correct speech issues usually include working with a speech pathologist and doing different exercises to help with the speech issues. Parents or teachers are the first to take notice that the child needs to be tested for speech and language delays. McCormack, et al. (2010) state, “The decision to seek and receive intervention for young children with speech impairment typically is made by parents or teachers on behalf of the children, as opposed to adults with communication impairment who make this decision of their own accord” (p. 381). These children are not necessarily aware they need help, but they are aware that they speak differently and this can create issues with making friends and being able to communicate needs successfully to people that are not close to them. Without help these children can grow up without having the same opportunities as children with normal speaking patterns. The earlier these problems are addressed the sooner therapy can begin and the more likely these children will grow up having a regular life with normal prospects at school and at jobs.
Beginning list of Terms
Apraxia- The inability to perform complex movement like those used for speech, this usually occurs following a brain trauma or damage.
Morphology- The use and understanding of minimal units of meaning.
Phonology- Language manipulation of sound according to the rules of the particular language being spoken.
Semantics- The study of language meaning with the use of words and phrases.
Specific Language Impairment (SLI)- is a diagnosis when a child’s speech is delayed because of no other apparent physical or mental reason.
Speech Pathologists- Someone who specializes in speech and language disorders.
Syntax- The principles, grammar, and rules for assembling sentences in language.
Telegraphic Speech- The use of one verb and one noun that toddlers sometimes use to ask for things they want. This speech pattern begins around age two.
Limitation of Study
In recent years there has been many studies done on speech delays and speech abnormality in children. Before the 1970’s there was not much information on were speech impairments came from. There were many theories on hearing loss and substandard parenting but not much on genetics at the time (bishop, 2006). Currently the studies on speech impairment are limited to studies that are updated after a few years to see progress. The advancements on speech therapies and modern techniques are not old enough to do studies on children that have gone through these sessions and become adults to see if these therapies are life changing or if some symptoms return with age and if sessions are stopped. This information will only become available with time to see if any of the problems arise with age.
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Two theorists that have studied how children discover speech are Albert Bandura and Noam Chomsky. These men did not study delays in speech but they did theorize how children learn to speak so these theories can be applied to how delays and impairments can happen in children. Chomsky felt when children are in-between two and three, they start putting three words together, creating simple sentences. While it is true that children learn rules of adult language, they often over generalize language at first. If they hear something is plural, such as cats, then they are likely to put “s” on other words were it is not appropriate to make it plural, like moose or fish. With children with speech impairments these overgeneralizations with language do not always disappear like they do with children with normal language skills. After three and between six children have a language transformation (Crain, 2005). They start rearranging the sentences almost perfectly. At about the age of seven children start to understand the use of passive voice (Crain, 2005). With a child with a speech impairment of delay this transformation can take much longer to accomplish, or not at all without the proper treatment.
Bandura theorized that children learned through observation. They model after what they hear their parents say. They cannot model identically but usually the language rules that go along with the language they are immersed in are mimicked and learned (Crain, 2005). This can be a cause of speech impairment such as a stutter if their parent stuttered. If Bandura’s theory was solely then only true theory about speech the only children that would be impaired in speech would be those with parents that were impaired in speech.
Speech impairment can also influences cognitive behaviors. This can create anger and embarrassment if the speech impairment is not corrected as the child gets older and becomes more aware that they way they speak is different then those around them. The psychological distress that children can go through when they have speech impairment can be seen when they have problems socializing. Speech impairments make it difficult for children to socialize with other children because children with normal speech can be unaware of the delicacy of the situation. They can say things that can be hurtful and this can make it tough to build relationships. It can also be difficult for these children to go to school because they usually need speech therapy and this can be embarrassing for some. Having a speech impairment or delay as a child can be mentally difficult because it affects not only verbal but also emotional parts of their life.
Definition of speech and language delay
The most basic definition of speech and language delay is when children do not start speaking and using language skills the approximate age of the majority of other children. Without treatment by a speech pathologist or therapist the symptoms can continue or become worse. This can lead to difficulties in learning and cognitive development as the child ages. These speech and language delays can be attributed to a number of different causes which include, hearing loss, brain injury or retardation, and commonly specific language impairment when no other issue can be found with the child’s other physical or mental capacities.
Symptoms of speech delays
The symptoms of speech and language delays are vast and can vary from child to child. While one child can have difficulties with sentence structure and omitting words, another child can have a problem with deleting letters from single words in sentences spoken.
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