What are the differences between speech and language skills?
- Speech refers to the "articulation" or production of sounds, such as correctly articulating the /k/ sound in words and sentences.  The word "fluency" is used when talking about how smoothly you speak (difficulty with smooth speech is called dysfluency or stuttering) and the word "voice" is used when talking about how a voice sounds (pitch, tone, volume).
- Language refers to the ability to listen and comprehend information (receptive language) and your ability to express yourself in a meaningful way (expressive language).  
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Although difficulties in speech and language differ, they frequently overlap. A child with a language deficit may be able to pronounce words but is unable to put a sentence together orally. Conversely, another child's speech may be difficult to understand, but he or she may use words and phrases to express ideas. A different child may speak clearly but have difficulty processing and following directions.

What are common causes of speech and language delays?
Children may have had a history of frequent ear infections during speech sound development. Some children have developmental delays, autism, or cerebral palsy. Other children may have a learning system that is not processing information as effectively as it should.  

Why is early referral important for speech and language delays?
Delays in speech and language may significantly impair communication skills, social/emotional development and pre-academic skills. A child's overall speech pattern will usually become more understandable as he matures, but some children will need direct treatment to eliminate speech errors. Language delays can affect academic skills, such as reading, writing and math comprehension. 

How do I know if my child needs additional help?
Children develop speech/language skills at different rates.  Sometimes children within the same family develop speech and language skills at a different rate than their siblings.  There may not be a problem, but a screening of your child's skills can determine if further evaluation is needed. Please see ASHA's website for information regarding typical speech and language development. 

 


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