Reasons for speech delay in children

Updated November 21, 2016

Most children are born with an ability to communicate, beginning with their first cry at birth. As a child grows, her speech skills develop from sounds to words to full sentences. For some children, the development of language skills and speech may be difficult. There are several reasons for speech delays in children. Seek medical attention for any child who displays characteristics of delayed speech.

Oral-Motor Problems

In some children, speech delays occur due to oral-motor problems. This type of problem occurs when the area of the brain responsible for speech production is insufficient in some way. A child with oral-motor problems will experience difficulty using and coordinating the tongue, jaw and lips when speaking.

Hearing Problems

Hearing problems are another cause of speech delays in children. This includes children who suffer from chronic ear infections, which can greatly affect hearing ability. Hearing is an important part of learning to speak, as children typically mimic words and sounds they hear in their environment. If unable to hear clearly, a child will not be able to develop clear speech patterns.

Constitutional Delays

In some children, an expressive speech delay is simply the result of a constitutional, or temporary, delay in their speech development. Considered late talkers, these children will gradually catch up in their speech development without any additional intervention or treatment. As there is no way to differentiate a constitutional delay from other serious conditions, it is best to seek medical attention for any signs of speech delays in children.

Developmental Disorders

Speech delays in children also occur due to pervasive developmental disorders, such as autism and mental retardation, also referred to as mental deficiency. These disorders and deficiencies cause both expressive delays, the inability to generate speech, and receptive delays, the inability to understand speech. A child affected by mental retardation or a pervasive developmental disorder will typically display delays in his visual language skills as well.

Oral Impairments

Other causes of speech delay in children include oral impairments, including a short frenulum, which is the fold that lies under the tongue, problems with the palate, also referred to as the roof of the mouth, and other problems with the mouth and tongue area. These impairments can affect the speech production in an otherwise healthy child developing at a normal rate.

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