BBI 3215

BBI 3215: INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLINGUISTICS
ESSAY: SPEECH DELAY AMONG CHILDREN
NAME: ZAINATUL ASYIQIN BT HASLAN
MATRIC NUMBER: 187551
PROF. MADYA DR YAP NGEE THAI
Communication is essential in everyday life. All humans ranging from the youngest to the eldest need to communicate and convey their messages with others. Communication takes place when a person produces speech. Before that, I want to recall back how the speech production occurs. Speech production starts with a process of lexical selection, which is triggered by an idea for a message. Lexical items which are basic lexical semantic, morphosyntactic information and phonological form information are activated based on intended meaning for the message. Next encoding stage is syntactic representation that puts words into hierarchically organized components. After that, phonological representation stage that “spelling out” words as phonemes. It specifies the prosodic characteristics and way how the sentence is to be uttered. ‘This representation is converted into instructions to the vocal apparatus from motor control areas of the brain and then neural signals are sent to muscles of lips, tongue, larynx, mandible and respiratory system to produce actual speech’. (Fernandez, 2014)
Humans start producing speech when they were still children. However, the age for the children to produce speech might be vary for each person. Some may start around two years old while some may be earlier or later. ‘By two years, about one in five children shows sign of having language delay’, (…., 20..) Some of these “late talkers” will catch up as they grow older but some will end up having speech delay. It must be kept in mind that speech and language problems are actually dissimilar although always overlap. A child having language delay might pronounce the words correctly but only can put two words together. However, a child having speech delay might use his own words and phrases although it is hard to be understood. Although a child has speech delay, he does not necessarily face language delay also. According to the website Kidsogenius.com, some example of speech disorders are Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Stuttering and Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. Language disorders are like Language-Based Learning Disabilities, Specific Language Impairment and Selective Mutism. In this essay, I want to discuss about speech delay among children and what parents and also society can do about it.

First of all, we need to know the signs of speech delay among children for us to get the general sight. Here are the abnormal stages a child with speech delay might encounter. Firstly, find medical help if a child does not babble or mock simple sentences by the age of one year old. He also seems does not understand or respond when asked by parents. A child should also say at least a word when he reaches 18 months. Parents must pay attention if the child only points and grunts to communicate and loses his vocabulary or talks little when he is two years old. Other sign is at two and half years, he speaks in single syllables or does not have 50 words of vocabulary. By three years old, he can only speak two-word phrases which sometimes cannot be understood by strangers. However, there are also children having speech difficulties when they enter preschool, around four to five years old. They might struggle in saying new words and making conversations. They also find it hard to use the exact words when talking and cannot respond to teacher’s instructions.
We must understand that are few reasons why speech delay occurs among children. One of the reason is because of the oral impairment of a child, like problems associated with the speech articulators like tongue and palate. Besides that, a short frenulum (the fold beneath the tongue) can also limit tongue movement in producing speech. Oral-motor problems might also be another problem which the areas of brain responsible for speech is malfunction. It makes it difficult to coordinate lips, tongue and jaw in producing speech. Moreover, hearing problem like ear infection can make it worse for a child. Parents should test their child’s hearing by meeting an audiologist. The child might have hearing trouble in articulating, understanding, imitating and using language. ‘As long as there is normal hearing in at least one ear, speech and language will develop normally.’ (Kidshealth, 20…) Although this statement shows it is acceptable to have normal hearing in just one ear, parents must not overlook their child’s developmental progress and need take it seriously. Another reason of speech delay is prematurity. Prematurity does not only lead to speech or language delay but many categories of developmental delays.
Knowing all these signs and causes of speech delay, I want to share several steps parents can take to help in curing speech delay. The most professional help that parents can get is from the speech therapists. Therapy is more reliable as it has scientific help from the experts. ‘The most primary goal of therapy is to teach children strategies for comprehending spoken language and producing appropriate communicative behavior, and to help parents learn ways of encouraging their children’s communicative skills.’ (McLaughlin, 2011) Parents who register for speech-language therapy must first receive training from an experienced speech-language pathologist. For the therapy to be more effective, it should be longer than eight weeks rather than lesser eight weeks. Other than therapy, parental involvement is also crucial as they are the most influential people on children. Parents need to spend more quality time communicating with their child like talking, singing and encouraging imitation of sounds. Read to the child too. They can start reading when the child is still as young as a baby. Search for suitable books according to the child’s age. For example, use picture books that are well-illustrated to encourage children to read while parents name the picture. Find also books that provide textures that child can touch and use his sensory sense. Later, if the child is older, let him point out and name the identifiable pictures. Besides that, parents can use daily situation to improve the child’s speech. Parents must always talk to child all day like naming foods at the supermarket and pointing out objects in the house. They should keep on interacting without using “baby talks” which only use real and correct words.

Other than speech-language pathologist, parents can seek help from the child’s preschool teacher. The teacher might notice some speech delay signs which parents might missed. Parents can also meet pediatricians, psychologist or family health nurse. If the child faces hearing impairments, it is better to meet an audiologist. However, if the child has language problem, it is better to seek a speech pathologist as he can use language tests to assess the child’s language abilities.
To sum up, speech delay among children is nothing new as it can affect anyone. Not only parents must be aware of this speech delay condition among kids, but also other family members and the society. I hope my essay can benefit especially parents on the children’s language development. For Linguistics Major students, they can relate how language and speech production cannot happen during speech delay as some speech articulators are malfunction.

References:
Language Delay. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2018, from http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/language_delay.htmlGuide to Speech Delay. (n.d.). Modern Families Fresh Ideas Parenting. doi:https://www.parenting.com/article/speech-delays
Komisaruk, K. L. (Ed.). (2017, June). Delayed Speech or Language Development. Retrieved May 20, 2018, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/not-talk.html
McLaughlin, M. R. (may 15, 2011). Speech and Language Delay in Children. American Family Physician,83(10). Retrieved May 20, 2018.

Fernandez, E. M., ; Cairns, H. S. (n.d.). Fundamentals of Psycholinguistics(2014 ed.). West Sussex, UK: Willey-Blackwell.