Parenting Education and Learning Health

How Do You Know If Child Has Speech Disorder?

1 to 3 years

Created by Bhavna
Updated on Nov 21, 2019

How Do You Know If Child Has Speech Disorder
Reviewed by Expert panel

While I was growing up, I had a boy in my class who used to stutter and while I and the other kids in my class were very patient with him (he was one of my best friends) but now I think if I knew then what I know now we could have helped our friend and made him so much more comfortable and confident about himself. Here are a few of the facts that we need to know about speech disorders. [Know - Ways to Encourage Language Expansion in Your Toddler]

What is a Speech Disorder?

Speech disorders are of many kinds and can stem from a number of reasons. The main disorders are as follows:

Stuttering or Stammering: Stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggling behaviors such as rapid eye movement, blinks or lip tremors. Stuttering can be of two kinds:

  1. Psychogenic Stuttering: This kind of stuttering can be caused by emotional trauma or problems with thought and reasoning.
  2. Neurogenic Stuttering: If a child is neglected or abused or is left on his own (does not hear other people talking), it can lead to the child not being able to learn to speak.

Cluttering: It can be primarily defined as an inability to speak and it affects the fluency or flow of the speech. The child has disorganized thoughts and this leads to speaking in bursts or unnecessary pauses. The speaker is mostly unaware of the problem.

Lisping: This is an articulation disorder, which involves substituting, or omitting sounds form words (for example pronouncing “wabbit” for rabbit and “cool” for school).

Aphasia: This is also known as the “ Oral Motor Speech Disorder”, a child with aphasia has difficulty moving the muscles and structures necessary to form speech sounds into words.

Selective Mutism: This is when a child refuses to talk in certain situations that may be emotionally stressing.

How Do I Diagnose If My Child Has A Speech Disorder?

I once knew a couple whose child was only talking in monosyllables till age 3 and the parents were really worried, thinking that the child had some kind of speech disorder. After many physical tests and consultations with the speech therapist, they realized that the problem was in the household. The father was from Andhra Pradesh (hence spoke Telegu to the child), the mother was from Karnataka ( spoke Kannada to the child), the help that they had at home was a from Bengal (spoke in Bengali to the child), the cook who came to the house was speaking Hindi and the child was spoken to in English in the school. No wonder the child could not pick up a single language as the primary language of communication, on the other hand, he could communicate with all of them in monosyllables in their respective languages (which were exceptional since he was conversing in 5 languages). [Read - What If Child Hasn't Yet Started Talking?

After a lot of conscious effort from the parents, the child started to communicate in Hindi and English fluently in no time. Making sure that a professional helps verify the symptoms of your child before you decide that your child has a speech disorder.

Reasons Why a Child Might Have Speech Disorder

Physical Birth Defects: Speech sounds are made by coordinated muscle movements involving the throat muscles, tongue, lips, teeth and jaw any kind of birth defect in one of these areas will lead up to a speech disorder.

Hearing Disorder Leading up to Speech Disorder: Defect in a child’s hearing will definitely affect the speech pattern in a child.

Genetics: Sometimes a history of speech disorder in the family may be a reason why a child might suffer from a speech disorder.

Neurological Defect: Muscle movements required to make a speech is controlled by the brain and monitored through our senses of hearing and touch. If a child has had any kind of brain damage (due to premature birth, a bad fall or a brain anomaly) then it will greatly be a reason for a speech disorder.

Metabolic Diseases: A disturbance in the brain’s chemical environment can lead to a metabolic disorder. This will lead to impaired brain development and loss of coordination leading up to a speech disorder along with other diseases like mental retardation, cerebral palsy and seizures.

Emotional & Stress Factors: Research has proved that healthy children with normal speech functions developed stuttering due to a fear that they experienced as a result of violent homes or violence subjected towards them (I know of a 6-year-old child who started stuttering one day because the father had violently shouted at her for not finishing her food on time and she got so scared that every time she saw her father she would start to stutter). In such cases, psychological intervention is required to help the child and the parent resolve the issue

How Can a Speech Disorder Be Treated?

Speech Therapy: Speech – Language pathologists are often known as speech therapists, they are educated in the study of human communication, its development and its disorders. The treatments include breathing techniques, relaxation strategies for oral muscles, Positive Control, and Oral Motor exercises.

Hearing Test: It is very important to know if the child’s hearing power is perfect, sometimes that is the reason they cannot learn vocabulary because they cannot hear the right sound and the pronunciation.

Physical Examinations: Birth defects like cleft palate and problems with other parts of the mouth like the lips, teeth, and jaw (anatomic anomalies) can also be the reason your child has a speech disorder. Timely intervention and action can help with speech disorder.

Emotional Support: In children's speech, symptoms can resolve with time and proper emotional support. Parents need to make their children feel loved and special. The children need to be constantly reassured that they can overcome the disorder in time and it is okay to be different.

Your child’s treatment team might include a Doctor, an audiologist, a speech-language pathologist and an occupational therapist

How Can Parents Help?

When dealing with a child who has a speech disorder we need to be sensitive but not dramatic in our approach, we need to be less demanding from the child to speak in a certain way especially in front of other people since high-pressure situations might contribute to the degree of speech disorder. 

  1. Listening to the child attentively and waiting until the child completes the sentence helps in boosting the confidence of the child.
  2. The home environment also plays a crucial part; you need to provide a stable and calm household and assigning some time to talk to your child especially when the child is excited would help in the process.
  3. Refrain from reacting badly when your child is not able to express fluently and also be honest with your child reinstating that it is okay for some disruptions to occur. When you need to correct your child, you need to be gentle and follow it up with praise if s/he speaks fluently.

How to Develop Your Child’s Speech and Vocabulary Right From the Start?

  1. Start talking to your child since birth. A child who is 2-3 months old can understand the tone of your voice. By the time the child turns 6 months old they he/she has started to babble in imitation of real speech and can also give a suitable expression to go with the babbling. By the end of year one, a child will start to say a couple of words, recognize names of the family members, imitating familiar sounds (for example if you ask, What does a cow say, pat will come to the reply… mooo) and this understanding leads to following simple instructions.
  2. Reading aloud to your child also helps in the vocabulary building and when if you are animatedly reading the story the child picks up on your expressions and can understand what the words stand for in a better fashion. 
  3. Singing with your child and music also plays a very crucial part in speech development (singing nursery rhymes and acting them out is a great way to vocabulary building).


There are a lot of researches that show that a child knows a lot about communicating and language even before the child can is able to speak their first words hence if a child has had any contributing factors since birth (low birth weight/ physical deformity/ brain damage) then they should be tested early and periodically for speech and language problems both. The treatment that needs to be followed should be developmentally appropriate and individualized.

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Nov 26, 2012

I have experienced that if I scolded my child too hard, he would be at complete loss of words, even though he would have things to say, something that his father also did as a child,I am told. Need to be really careful with these impressionable little minds!

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| Nov 26, 2012

i have 3 yr old kid, she still not putting words together or forming sentences, can u plz help or suggest whom shud i consult

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| Nov 27, 2012

Hi Deepali, wrt your concern, I would suggest you put it up in the Parent Talk section as well...

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| Nov 29, 2012

ya i did it Praveen n i got the valuable suggestions to , thnx for conceren

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| Jun 09, 2014

From the blog I understand that the problem with my 2. 4 year old is lisping. She replaces 'f' with 's' while saying words starting with f. Otherwise she speaks fluently both english and malayalam. Please help.

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| Nov 26, 2016

ix v

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| Apr 20, 2017

Here is the Tips to handle stuttering in your toddler.

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| Aug 10, 2018

Thanks it's really useful

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