Warning signs your kid might have a communication disorder

The month of May is designated as Better Speech and Hearing Month. May has been set aside to educate the public, as approximately 40 million Americans have trouble speaking or hearing due to a communication disorder. Early identification of communication and hearing problems can improve academic, social, and career experiences, and ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals of all ages.

Unfortunately, many Americans either do not recognize or quickly dismiss the warning signs of a communication disorder. A recent poll of speech-language pathologists and audiologists who are members of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association reported significant parental delays in getting help for children with communication disorders. This report illustrates just one example of the many missed opportunities to help children and adults with communication disorders and demonstrates the importance of understanding the following symptoms as possible signs of a problem:

Speech-Language Symptoms in Children

  • Does not interact socially (infancy and older)
  • Does not follow or understand what you say (starting at 1 year)
  • Says only a few sounds, words, or gestures (18 months to 2 years)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months to 2 years)
  • Does not combine words (starting at 2 years)
  • Struggles to say sounds or words (3 to 4 years)

Speech-Language Symptoms in Adults

  • Struggles to say sounds or words (stuttering)
  • Repetition of words or parts of words (stuttering)
  • Speaks in short, fragmented phrases (expressive aphasia)
  • Says words in the wrong order (expressive aphasia)
  • Struggles with using words and understanding others (global aphasia)
  • Difficulty imitating speech sounds (apraxia)
  • Inconsistent errors (apraxia)
  • Slow rate of speech (apraxia)
  • Slurred speech (dysarthria)
  • Slow or rapid rate of speech, often with a mumbling quality (dysarthria)

Hearing Symptoms in Children

  • Lack of attention to sounds
  • Does not follow simple directions
  • Does not respond when their name is called
  • Delays in speech and language development
  • Pulls or scratches at their ears
  • Difficulty achieving academically, especially in reading and math
  • Socially isolated and unhappy in school
  • Persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise (regular and constant listening to electronics at high volumes)

Hearing Symptoms in Adults

  • Inattentiveness
  • Buzzing or ringing in their ears
  • Failure to respond to spoken words
  • Persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise (regular and constant listening to electronics at high volumes)
  • Muffled hearing
  • Constant frustration hearing speech and other sounds
  • Avoids conversation
  • Social isolation
  • Depression

If you recognize symptoms in your child or loved one, there are many places in New Orleans that can help. The LSU Medical Center Department of Communication Disorders has a number of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists that can screen and assess individuals of all ages. They can be reached at 504-568-4348. New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center is another tremendous resource. Their number is 504-897-2606.

This blog post represents just one of the hundreds of TV, radio, print, and digital public service announcements intended to educate the public about warning signs and connect parents and caregivers with professional help. I encourage you to share the information that you learn by reading this post and go to the ASHA website (www.asha.org ) to find out more about communication disorders.

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Written by Maureen Spencer

Maureen is a Speech-Language Pathologist and President of LexiaTech. For the last 14 years, she was the Executive Director of Basics Plus, a private practice in New Orleans that specializes in treatment of dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Maureen was a national trainer in an intervention curriculum for individuals with reading deficits. She continues to teach graduate courses in language-learning disabilities at LSU Medical Center.

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