Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life. Within the first year most kids have mastered how to roll, crawl, walk, laugh, point, stand and even communicate their needs (or at least attempt to through hand gestures, speech and the occasional tantrum). However, it takes years (and years and years) to fully master the fine art of communication.

Every child learns at a different rate and this is no different when learning how to talk and communicate effectively. In some instances, children who have difficulties with communicating could have a communication disorder and may need a little extra assistance.

What is a Communication Disorder?

A communication disorder is any disorder that affects an individual’s ability to comprehend, detect or apply language. Some communication disabilities are the result of another diagnosis such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or hearing loss.

There are also specific communication disorders not related to other conditions including:
•Mixed receptive-expressive language disorders
•Expressive language disorder
•Speech-sound disorders
•Childhood-onset fluency disorder
•Social communication disorder

When to be Concerned:
As many as 20 per cent of four-year-olds have a speech or language disorder and the symptoms can range immensely.

Here are a few things to watch for:

•Not speaking at all or limited word choice for age
•Trouble grasping simple directions or naming objects
•Difficulty in using language to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings

•Limited vocabulary and poor sentence structure
•Trouble with retelling stories, repeating phrases and relaying information to others
•Finds meaning from a situation through visual information rather than oral
•Difficulty with peer interaction

However, just because your child has trouble expressing what’s inside doesn’t mean there is an underlying communication disorder. But if you are concerned with your child’s language progress, it doesn’t hurt to speak to a Speech Pathologist or visit an Early Intervention Centre. Early intervention is key and can ensure your little one is on the right path.

How to Help Your Child:

Consider visual aids
Look for aids to help teach without the need to rely too heavily on words. Some great visuals include: abacus, peg boards and tangrams.

Play… with patience
Children learn through play, especially when you are playing with them. Talk about what they’re doing and use a variety of words. Incorporate reading into your playtime, which is essential in early speech, language, literacy and narrative development.

Be patient when playing. Don’t force them to speak or express themselves. Let them listen to you. Through this interaction they are learning so much, even if some days it doesn’t seem like it.

Try not to put too much pressure on your child and yourself As a parent it’s hard not to compare your child to other kids around the same age. Focus on your child’s individual journey and remember, every child learns at a different pace. What matters most is that they are moving forward, even if it is taking them a bit longer to get there.