A delay in language and speech acquisition may occur when some of the skills and knowledge of the different systems needed for language are altered. From the first days of life, babies pay more attention to their caregivers’ speech than to other sounds and noises around them. We also know that babies recognise their mother’s voice from the very first days of life, and can distinguish it from other similar voices in their environment. Therefore, before their first words appear, there are a number of linguistic precursors that are essential for normal language development. Communication skills which involve joint attention, interaction and intentionality are very important in language acquisition.
IMMATURE LANGUAGE OR SIMPLE DELAY
Children who have immature language have a simple delay in language acquisition, with their first words appearing a little later than usual, but they may be developing normally. Children with immature language and a delay of about 6 months in reaching milestones are not in a pathological situation. Even so, this can be considered a warning sign and these children might benefit from language and speech stimulation.
If the immature language or simple delay stage does not evolve favourably, it becomes a language delay. In this case, the appearance of the child’s first words is delayed, and they might appear between the age of 2 and a half or 3. Children with language delay have difficulty combining two nuclei or starting simple sentences (subject + verb + object). They can also present problems with oral comprehension, both simple and complex. When difficulties with language delay are consolidated beyond the age of 6, a language disorder diagnosis can be established.
Dyslalias are difficulties with the pronunciation of speech and its sounds. The language is correct, the child knows the vocabulary and is able to make structured sentences but there are certain sounds that they do not know how to produce, such as the letter s, r, etc. These difficulties can be related to development at certain ages and intervention is not necessary until the periods considered normal for the correct pronunciation of certain sounds are exceeded.
A phonological disorder refers to difficulties in both speech and language that cause unintelligible linguistic production. Children with a phonological disorder speak fluently but it is hard to understand them. The mistakes they make are phonological and can be observed in the correct production of sounds and words alike. The most frequent errors are omitting certain phonemes and changing some with others.
IMPAIRED COMMUNICATION AND INTENTIONALITY
Communication, intentionality or joint attention are some of the dimensions that are absolutely essential for the correct development of language. Some children show little communicative intention, do not seek out adults or peers to share information, or only make very specific demands to deal with very basic personal needs. In these cases, we need to make a more detailed diagnosis and assess other aspects of neurodevelopment.
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