By Barbara A. Samfield, MA-CCC/SLP

Do speech delays matter? If a child seems to understand, won’t he “catch up”? Is it really a big deal that “R’s” or “S’s” are mispronounced at age 10?

The answer is YES, speech delays matter at any age. Generally, the longer a person has a speech problem, the more difficulty he will encounter over time due to speech issues. A strong correlation exists between speech and language delays and low reading skills. For more information about this relationship and helpful tips for parents, visit:

Children who endure teasing about speech in elementary school risk low self-esteem in middle school. Adolescents with persistent stuttering or poor social communication often face rejection from peers. As adults, they may experience ongoing difficulty in the workplace or getting hired. In a competitive job market, employers can be choosy. Given two equally qualified applicants for a customer service position, which adult is likely to be hired, the one with speech problems, or the one who communicates clearly?

For the two year old with 2 or 3 words, speech delays can occur for a myriad of reasons including:

  • hearing loss
  • difficulty saying sounds
  • poor coordination of muscles for talking
  • difficulty putting words together

While there is a wide range of “normal” communication skills in children between ages 2 and 5, children with speech delays should be evaluated by a qualified speech-language pathologist. Social communication is another vital aspect of children’s development, and evaluation is recommended for children who seem to be “in their own world” or uninterested in people, especially during the formative years of birth to 3. A helpful guide for parents is available on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association website:

For the seven year old with language delays, difficulties in understanding and using words wreak havoc on reading skills. The 4 year old who mispronounces “R” or “S” may sound cute now, but without proper treatment will not sound “cute” at age 14.

Communication skills are essential for success in life. Speech therapy can make such a difference in helping children, teens, and adults. Best advice for parents? When in doubt, check it out.

Barbara Samfield is owner of the Speech and Language Center at Stone Oak , a private practice of speech-language pathologists in the Stone Oak area. Clients are seen individually by appointment, with evening hours available. Many health plans have speech benefits. To find out about your health plan, or for more information about the Speech and Language Center at Stone Oak, call 210.495.9944.

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