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Children with a Diagnosis- How we can help!

Article Written By: Victoria Mannella-Gupta

Did you know that there are over 440,000 Canadians who have significant speech, language and communication disabilities? ( Approximately 13% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years present with a speech and/or language delay. Sometimes a child presents with a speech and/or language delay with no other diagnosis present; however, sometimes a child's speech and/or language delays are related to:

  • Cognitive (intellectual, thinking) or developmental delays

  • Autism

  • Articulation problems

  • Weak oral muscles

  • Birth defects such as a cleft lip or cleft palate

  • Feeding or swallowing disorders

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Chronic hoarseness

  • Motor planning problems

  • Hearing impairments

Let's talk a bit more about some of the common diagnosis that affect speech and/or language and the role we as Speech-Language Pathologists have in supporting these children and their families.

Down Syndrome

· A condition where a child is born with an extra copy of their 21st chromosome

· Can cause developmental disabilities or delays

· Language comprehension is usually better than production

· Stuttering may be more prevalent

· Frequent ear infections which can affect the child’s perception of sounds and possible hearing loss


· A neurodevelopmental disorder

· May have difficulty with social communication (i.e. joint attention, verbal and nonverbal language skills, socially interacting with people etc.), language (abstract language, story-telling, etc.) or speech sound disorders

· Restricted and repetitive behaviours such as perseveration (getting stuck on an object or topic) and echolalia (repeating noises/words/phrases that you hear) may also be present.

· Some children with autism may have feeding problems

Childhood Apraxia of Speech

· Neurological speech sound disorder where the brain struggles to develop plans for speech movement

· The muscles are not actually weak, but instead have difficulty coordinating movements

· When we talk, our brain tells our muscles how to move the lips, jaw, and tongue in order to produce speech, however, with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, there is an error in the signal from the brain to the muscle

· Signs and symptoms may include not saying words the same way every time, putting stress on the wrong syllable or word, distorting or changing sounds, or saying shorter words more clearly than longer words

Global Developmental Delay

· An “umbrella term” for 2 or more developmental delays that may include: gross or fine motor skills, speech and language, cognitive, social skills, and activities of daily living

· The term is usually used in children under five years old

· May have lower than average intellectual functioning

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

· What our brain does with what we hear

· Some children are misdiagnosed with ADHD instead of APD

· It can affect the way your child speaks, reads, writes, and spells

· A child may have difficulty following conversations, knowing where a sound is coming from, listening to music, remembering spoken instructions, understanding what people are saying in a loud environment or if more than one person is talking

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