Signs of a Communication Disorder and What to Do About It

 April 6, 2020

Does your child struggle to interact with others?

While small communication issues, such as not knowing when to take turns or having trouble understanding others may seem harmless, they can be a sign of an underlying communication disorder.

Addressing communication issues early can help empower your child to live a rich and fulfilling life.

In today’s post, we will help you understand everything you need to know about communication disorders – from early signs to common contributing factors to the treatment options.

Early Signs of a Communication Disorder

Communication Disorders are best treated when treatment occurs early on in their development. No matter what age your child may be, here are the most common signs to look for to help in early identification and treatment (based on age groups):

  • Birth to 2-month-old: does not smile and does not interact with others.
  • 4 to 7-month-old: does not babble.
  • 7 to 12-month-old: makes only a few sounds and gestures.
  • 12 to 18-month-old: speaks only a few words.
  • 7 months to 2-year-old: does not understand what other people are saying and is not understood by others.
  • 3 to 5-year-old: cannot combine words to form a proper sentence, or has trouble talking and playing with peers, or has trouble with basic reading and writing skills.

There are many other signs of communication delays and disorders. You can read a full list (by age) here.

As a parent, learning all you can about the normal developmental milestones for children will help you spot early signs of a communication disorder.

Remember that all children are different. While there are “norms” and developmental charts that help guide parent’s understanding, there are also many other factors that contribute to what is considered age-appropriate including home language(s), siblings, and gender. Where one child may be able to speak 2 words by their first birthday, another may already speak 12 or more.

The best way to investigate or confirm whether your child has a communication disorder is by seeking professional help.

Common Factors of a Communication Disorder

Finding the cause of a communication order is no easy feat. The honest truth is that many times, there is no known or identifiable cause.

Something we know is that there are many factors that can contribute to communication delays or disorders. These are a few of the most common factors when investigating your child’s communication:

Organic Factors

Organic factors occur due to differences in organs associated with language. These factors are further divided into the following four types:

  1. Congenital: When a communication or language disorder is caused by complications or drug usage during pregnancy.
  2. Hereditary: When the communication disorder is inherited from one or both parents.
  3. Perinatal: When the communication disorder originates during birth.
  4. Postnatal: When the communication disorder appears after pregnancy due to problems such as premature birth.

Environmental Factors

It is no secret that the environment we live in plays an important role in shaping every aspect of our lives, including communication.

The environment a child lives in deeply affects his linguistic abilities.

Endocrine Factors

In case you didn’t already know, the endocrine is a chemical messenger system in our bodies. It plays important roles, such as regulating sleep, reproduction, and metabolism.

A problem in the endocrine system mostly affects the psychomotor development of children.

Functional Factors

Functional factors can lead to a problem with the pathological function of organs associated with language and communication.

Psychosomatic Factors

Psychosomatic factors are mental factors, such as stress or inner conflict, that play a key role in aggravating certain language development disorders.

Treatment Options for a Communication Disorder

Since communication disorders can affect more than one part of speech, you have several options to help your child improve his communication issues.

Here’s a 3-step method for treating your child the right way:

1. Confirm the Problem

Start by investigating whether your child has difficulty communicating. You can do this by checking for the signs we mentioned earlier and then consulting a professional.

2. Start Basic Treatment at Home

Whether your child has a communication disorder or not, implementing basic home therapy strategies will help support the general development of your child.

Don’t over think it. Start simple.

The best therapy at home is to read with your child because it’s interactive and full of rich language opportunities. Don’t worry about reading every word on the page! Instead:

  • Point out the pictures on the pages and say the word of the item
  • Make expressive sounds while you look at the pictures, like animal noises or exclamatory phrases such as, “oh no!”
  • Books that have repetitive phrases are great early language choices – open the book and read only the repeated phrases. (example: “Chicka Chicka BOOM BOOM!”)
  • Allow your child to engage in turning the page, then point to another item and say, “look!” Then invite them to again “Turn page!”

Other simple questions you can use while reading:

  • “What is it?”
  • “What’s happening?”
  • “What’s next?” or “What is going to happen?”

3. Get Professional Help

As we mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to diagnose a cause for communication disorders, which is why you need to consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

Here’s what you can expect in your first meeting with an SLP:

  • The speech-language pathologist will start by asking some basic questions, such as why you believe that your child has a communication disorder.
  • She will then evaluate your child’s expressive language (ability to use speech and gestures) and receptive language (ability to understand speech and gestures).
  • The SLP will interact with your child in different ways to evaluate his communication development.
  • Depending on what she finds, the SLP may order some additional tests.
  • Once the diagnosis is finished, she will then create a treatment program tailored to meet your child’s specific needs.

One Last Piece of Advice

Don’t wait.

As soon as you see any sign of a communication disorder, book an appointment with a speech-language pathologist to diagnose your child right away.

When it comes to your children, you should trust your parental instincts and have your child evaluated as early as possible. The sooner you see a professional, the better the outcome will be.

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