child speech delays

Top 10 Causes of Child Speech Delays and Language Problems

Government data shows roughly 1 in 12 U.S. children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a disorder related to speech, language, swallowing or voice. Some child speech delays and language problems are associated with congenital conditions like Down Syndrome, but they’re often discovered around age 2 when a parent notices their child isn’t keeping up with other children their age.

Child speech delays and language disorders have a number of possible causes, and it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand what these might be – as well as why a thorough, professional evaluation may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

It’s also imperative to understand that some of these conditions won’t simply resolve on their own, and that the sooner we can start Cleveland speech therapy, the better the long-term prognoses. This is important because the inability to communicate – to speak and understand what’s being spoken – can have serious, long-term impact to a child’s ability to connect with parents and peers, excel in school and navigate their greater community.

American Family Physician points out that speech and language delays in children are associated with greater difficulty with reading, writing, attention and socialization. The sooner our speech therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection can help address it, the less the impact.

Top 10 Reasons for Child Speech Delays and Language Disorders

There can be more than one underlying cause of child speech delays and language disorders, and not all may be obvious right away. Regardless, our speech therapists can start without a diagnosis by simply treating the symptoms.

The most common reasons for pediatric speech-language therapy include:

  • General Speech-Language Delay. This is one of the most easily-remedied conditions, occurring simply when a child is not keeping developmental pace with their peers. It’s often a temporary situation, addressed with therapy and carryover in other settings (home, school, etc.). Most can catch up in relatively short order.
  • Expressive Language Disorders. Here, a child’s cognition is typical, but he/she may have trouble expressing language effectively. Speech therapy is very effective treatment.
  • Receptive Language Disorders. With these conditions, the child has trouble comprehending what is being said. Their words may not be clear and they may not use many. They have problems following directions and linking words to their object meaning. Speech therapy is the most effective treatment, but it often takes longer than others.
  • Autism. Now diagnosed in 1 in 59 children and 1 in 37 boys in the U.S, autism spectrum disorder involves a number of developmental problems, which do include expressive and receptive language delays. Many also show issues with repetitive activity. Communicating and social interaction are often long-time struggles, but their condition often improves greatly with a combination of early intervention speech, occupational and ABA therapy.
  • Intellectual disability. Cognitive disability – such as with Down Syndrome or a brain injury – usually involves some form of speech delay or disruption. A full evaluation should be followed by extensive, ongoing treatment by a speech therapist and other professionals.
  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Children with this condition struggle to make the right sounds for the right words, so their words tend to be impaired and difficult for others to understand. This condition usually requires a comprehensive assessment and a rigorous schedule of speech therapy (sometimes in combination with other therapies) to be effective.
  • Cerebral Palsy. This condition negatively impacts movement, muscle tone and motor skills, affecting the ability to move in a way that is purposeful and coordinated. It’s often caused by brain damage before or during birth or in a child’s first years. Often there can also be hearing issues and a disconnect between cognitive function and stimuli. Although this is a lifelong condition, with intensive speech therapy, we often discover means by which they can learn to effectively communicate.
  • Hearing loss after speech. Children who lose their ability to hear after learning to speak can suffer significant regression of their speech. They may need to work with an audiologist and speech pathologist to learn sign language, lip reading and possibly address to hearing aids.
  • Hearing loss before speech. When a child can’t hear words to repeat them correctly, speech development is disrupted. Often the tone and emphasis are incorrect. Speech therapy and audiology are necessary to help the child learn effective communication.
  • Dysarthia. This condition, with varying degrees of severity, involves weakness in the muscles used for speech, which often causes words to be slurred or slowed. Speech-language therapy with multiple approaches over time is typically effective.

Understanding why these limitations occur is part of the process of ensuring treatment is effective.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Speech and Language Delay in Children, May 2011, American Family Physician 

More Blog Entries:

Should I Take My Child to a Brecksville Speech Therapist?, June 9, 2019, Akron Speech Therapist Blog