Often as parents, we take great pride in our children’s milestones. We watch out for and try to document them, from their steps to their words. As much joy as these firsts bring us, they can also cause us worry as we impatiently wait for them. We start asking other parents when their children utter their first words and compare them to our own.
Why do some children experience speech delay, and what can we do as parents to help? Etcetera spoke to Samar Haidar, Beirut-based speech therapist and the Vice President of the Lebanese Association of Speech Therapy to find out more about this issue and its prevalence nationwide.
Was that a First Word?
It’s difficult for parents to pinpoint their child’s exact first word because of the word-like sounds that babies tend to make. “We consider it a first word when it is clearly understandable and is being used to express something” insists Samar.
“Generally, children are expected to utter their first words around the first year” states Samar. Before that, we hear a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” where they use one-syllable words to express themselves.
“The simple word ‘no’ is considered to be a significant word, since it means the child is using it to influence or affect those around them”, adds Samar.
Is Early Age Speech a Sign of Intelligence?
Speech at an early age was always thought to be a sign of intelligence. However, Samar assures that “There is absolutely no link between intelligence and early age speech. Children that speak at an early age are not necessarily more intelligent than those that don’t.”
According to Samar, in the realm of child development, some children take their first steps sooner than others, and while some children use their words to express themselves, others tend to do so physically.
Children have a lot they wish to express, but when they have no means to express them, they can get anxious and tense. “They may even begin to express this frustration in a number of ways”, warns Samar.
So What Can Cause Speech Delay?
The factors behind speech delay are mostly environmental. Children need to be a lot more stimulated. Samar points out that “Parents are not spending enough time with their children”.
In general, birth order may also play a role in early speech. First-borns utter their first words at an earlier age than their siblings. This is because as parents, we tend to engage our first-borns much more.
Jealousy of a sibling could also cause delay. Samar explains that “siblings can definitely affect each other, positively or negatively.”
How do I Know if My Child Has Speech Delay?
The question remains; is my child experiencing speech delay? According to Samar “You can only start to consider possible speech delay when your child is over 20 months old and hasn’t spoken yet”.
If so, Samar reassures us that “Speech delay does not mean there is a problem. Whenever the child starts to talk, their language will develop and progress normally as they grow.”
Should I Worry about a Learning Disability?
Unfortunately, speech delay can possibly affect reading, writing, and especially comprehension abilities. “Whether or not the child is treated will play a role here”, Samar warns.
Being a proponent of early intervention, Samar encourages parents to opt for it, describing it as a preventive shield that can ward off future disabilities. “Even though the child may eventually speak, the key is helping them get to their goal faster”, Samar rallies on.
To find out more about what you can do as a parent, read the second installment of this two-part series on speech delay.
Samar Haidar is a Beirut-based speech therapist and an expert in special education. She is the former president and now vice president of the Lebanese Association of Speech Therapy with over 20 years of experience in the field.
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Protecting our kids from the darker side of the Internet has never been more important or more difficult. Dealing with this problem is an evolving process. For kids younger than 10, you can set and impose limits on the amount of time spent online. You can also restrict access to mobile devices connected to the Internet and only allow your child to use them in the family room where you can supervise rather than in the privacy of their bedroom. Explain to your child that she should not give out personal identifying information (real name, home address, school name and address, parents’ names, pictures) to anyone she does not personally know. Repeat this lesson until your child can recite it in her sleep. You also have options that allow you to control for the most part what your child can see online. For example, iPads have parental controls and content filtering software that you can enable. Browsers also allow you to block certain websites. You have to make the constant effort to familiarize yourself with those options or enlist the help of a proficient friend or family member. It’s also preferable not to allow your children to register for social media accounts until they reach the age of 13.
For teenagers, however, open and honest communication is the key to ensuring online safety. At this age, kids are Internet veterans and will often know the Internet much better than you do. Yet, they don’t have your caution or experience. It’s more effective to discuss potential scenarios with your child. Explain that anything he or she posts online will stay online forever and can impact her future choice of university or career. Explain that the internet does NOT give anonymity. Discuss online bullying and posting hurtful comments (remember that your teen may be encouraged to bully others online). Explain the dangers of speaking to and sharing personal information with strangers. It’s never too late to enforce boundaries. If you are worried, you can ask your teenager for access to their social media accounts and inform them that you will be checking in. Do not do this behind their backs. There are many resources online that can help you keep your kid safe.
- I read a lot about the benefits of learning how to play a musical instrument. But how can I pick an instrument for my kid to start playing?
A child will reap the benefits of musical training regardless of what musical instrument he or she is playing. However, choosing the right instrument for your child and for your family environment remains important. Forcing children to learn instruments they have no interest in will not foster a love of music and might cause the child to resent having to practice. However, you also don’t want him or her to choose an instrument that does not suit your family. For example, if as a parent you do not like the sound of the electric guitar, you will not be able to support your child or endure the hours of practice he or she needs to put in. Parents also need to like the sound of the instrument their child is playing. Take into account your child’s body type and make sure he picks an instrument he is comfortable holding and carrying. Also, make sure your child’s choice is not affected by any perceived “social value” of an instrument. For younger kids (4-6) you can’t go wrong with the keyboard or piano as those instruments provide a great foundation and children can easily transition to other instruments later if they would like to. Violin is also a good option as it comes in scaled sizes, but it requires more patience and persistence. Another thing to take into account is your child’s personality type. High energy kids can get great stress relief from playing the drums, and outgoing personalities may prefer instruments such as the saxophone or trumpet. The most important consideration, however, remains your child’s personal preference and passion as those are the biggest guarantees that he or she will stick with the instrument long enough to earn the life-long benefits.