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Speech and Language Disorders
Authors: Saraswathy Ramamoorthy with Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE

Jason is 2 years old and is not talking much. He says a few words, but not many. He seems to be way behind the other 2-year-olds in the childcare setting. When he does talk, his words are very clear and easy to understand. Two-year old Tania, on the other hand, is always talking. She knows lots of words, but it is hard to understand what she is saying. The childcare provider wonders if either child has a communication problem.

The answer is, they both may have communication disorders. Jason may have a language disorder. Tania may have a speech disorder. So what is the difference between the two?

Speech and language are both tools of communication. They are separate from each other, though. Speech deals with how children say words. It refers to the way a child can pronounce or use the different speech sounds in words. Language, on the other hand, refers to how well a child can express ideas and understand others. It deals with understanding and being understood through communication.

So a child with a language problem might be able to say words well but may not be able to put words together to share ideas very well. A child with a speech problem, on the other hand, may put lots of words together but is hard to understand. Some children may have both speech and language problems.

A child’s communication is considered delayed when she is behind other children her age in speech and language skills. “Delayed” means the child is doing things in the right way and in the right order, but is slower than other children in learning them. On the other hand, a child might have a disorder if his speech or language is very different from that of other children who are like him in other ways. There also might be a disorder if a child's speech and/or language is difficult to understand. Another sign of a disorder is when a child seems to be very worried about how she talks or avoids communicating with other people.


What causes speech and language disorders?

Speech and language disorders may be caused by:
   • Hearing loss
   • Ear infections
   • Neurological (brain or nerve) disorders
   • Brain or head injury
   • Mental retardation (developmental delay)
   • Stroke
   • Viral infections
   • Physical problems such as cleft lip or cleft palate

Language disorders may also be connected with other disabilities such as:
   • Autism
   • Cerebral palsy
   • Learning disabilities


Go to:  What are the signs of a speech or language disorder?

           
Identification and evaluation of speech-language disorders




For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at jmyerswa@purdue.edu

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