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An Overview

A Speech/Language delay is a type of communication disorder. A child may have a language delay if he/she doesn’t meet the language developmental milestones for his/her age. Their language abilities may be developing at a slower rate than other children’s of their age. They may have issues in expressing themselves or understanding others. The delay may involve a combination of hearing, speech, and cognitive impairments also.

A speech/language delay can be :

  • Receptive - child has difficulty understanding language
  • Expressive - child has difficulty communicating verbally
  • A combination of both

A child with speech/language delay won’t achieve language milestones at the typical age. The symptoms and missed milestones depend on the child's age and the nature of his/her language delay.

Some common symptoms of speech/language delay are :

  • no babbling by the age of 15 months
  • no talking by the age of 2 years
  • inability to use short sentences by the age of 3 years
  • difficulty following directions/instructions
  • poor pronunciation/articulation
  • difficulty putting words together and using them in a sentence
  • leaving/missing words out of a sentence

Speech/language delay in children may have many possible causes. In some instances, more than one factor may lead to a language delay.

Some common causes of speech/language delay include :

  • Hearing impairment: If a child can’t hear language, learning to communicate can also be difficult.
  • Autism: Autism frequently affects communication. Speech/language delay is sometimes the most visible sign of something being wrong with a child having autism.
  • Intellectual disability: Intellectual disabilities can also cause speech/language delays.
  • Dyslexia and other learning disabilities may lead to speech/language delays in some cases.
  • Several psychosocial issues: These can also cause speech/language delays. For example, severe neglect of child by parents/family may lead to problems with speech/language development.

Potential risk factors for speech/language problems include :

  • being male
  • being born prematurely
  • having a low birth weight
  • having a family history of speech or language problems
  • having parents with lower levels of education
  • having sibling with developmental issues

Speech/language delay is diagnosed as well as treated by Speech and Language pathologist/Speech Therapist. However, as the condition is mostly associated with other neuro-developmental issues like Autism, Intellectual Disability, Behavioural issues etc., Occupational therapy may help to address these problems.


OT also helps in improving :

  • Attention span
  • In-seat behaviour
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Visual & auditory perceptual skills
  • Gross & fine motor skills
  • Behavioural problems
  • Sensory processing issues


Thus, an Occupational therapist may not directly help in developing speech/language of the child but will definitely assist by addressing other associated problems.

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