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Red Flags of Speech Delay


The ability to express our thoughts and feelings is crucial
to our survival as social beings. Children begin their journey of developing
their speech as early as 2 months where they start cooing and make gurgling
sounds. Speech is a developmental milestone that is observable and
developmental problems may be indicated if a child is observed to not use their
words to communicate. Thus, any delays in speech especially early on in a
child’s development should not be taken lightly.

As we all know, individuals with autism may find it difficult to
socialize as well as communicate their wants and needs which may result in
frustration and tantrum behaviours. With a poor ability to utilize speech, it
may be difficult to integrate individuals with autism into school and community

Depending on the severity of the autism symptoms, some
individuals may find it very challenging to develop appropriate use of speech
to communicate. Nevertheless, not all hope is lost as studies have shown that speech and language can be developed even if
a child demonstrate severe language delays. What’s important then is to detect the early signs and red
flags of a speech delay so that early intervention can be conducted to help the
child’s receptive and expressive language and communication.

The National Institute of Child Health & Human
Development (NICHD) have listed down the red flags of speech delay that parents
and clinicians should look out for in a child:

  • No babbling
    or cooing by 12 months
  • No gestures
    (finger point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • No single
    words by 16 months
  • No two word
    phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of
    language skill at any age

Parents especially should monitor closely if their child is
hitting the typical developmental milestones and take precautionary steps in
the case their child does show any signs of delay. Parents should see a
paediatrician or a speech pathologist if their child is demonstrating delays in

Parents, here are some tips on what you can do with your
child to push for their speech development:

  1. Choose
    ONE language
    to expose to your child initially. Trying to get your child to
    understand two or more languages at one go will confuse the child.
  2. Simplify
    . Avoid speaking in long sentences, use 1-2 word sentences to
    communicate to your child. This ensures that the language you are using is what
    you child understands and is more likely to use.
  3. Comment
    or label
    more instead of asking questions. Using statements will make it
    easier for your child to reciprocate with language.
  4. Acknowledge
    your child’s input to let your child know that you’re listening and are
    interested. This includes any nonverbal requests (e.g. hand leading, reaching
    for objects).
  5. Model
    appropriate language
    to accompany your child’s nonverbal communication (for
    example, If your child pulls your hand to take a ball that is out of his or her
    reach, you can say “ball”).
  6. Acknowledge
    any verbal communication
    by repeating words or vocalization your child makes.

As a closing tip, set aside some
undivided time with your
child at least 30 minutes a day, with no screen time. This will help
build your child’s attention and speech as well.

Look out for our next blog post to find out more on typical
developmental milestones!