Speech Language Disorder and Educational Delay

Speech Language Disorder and Educational Delay

Speech language disorder is a problem that makes it hard for your child to talk and to understand speech. Speech refers to the way sounds and words are made when talking. Language refers to the way that words are used to understand or express ideas.

Speech language disorders are common among children. Causes of speech-language disorder that may interfere with your child’s education include:

  • Hearing loss.
  • Developmental disorders.
  • Learning disabilities.

Warning Signs that your child may be develop a speech-language disorder

  • Using fewer consonant and vowel sounds than other children of the same age.
  • Not being easily understood by others by the time your child is 3 or 4 years old.
  • Not following spoken (verbal) directions.
  • Not asking or answering questions.
  • Inability to name common objects at home or school.
  • Not using grammatically correct sentences, particularly pronouns and verbs.
  • Not engaging in conversations in which he or she must take turns speaking.

How can speech language disorders affect my child in school?

Speech-language disorders can make it difficult for your child to learn at school. Your child may:

  • Struggle to understand others, such as the teacher.
  • Often ask people to repeat things.
  • Struggle to answer questions and follow instructions.
  • Not be able to do work that is required (not perform at grade level).
  • Not learn or understand enough words (poor vocabulary development).
  • Have trouble learning or not be able to learn:
    • The alphabet.
    • How to put words and sentences together.
    • How to read and write.
  • Avoid or dislike talking, reading, or writing.
  • Avoid participation in classroom activities, after-school activities, or sports.
  • Stutter.
  • Have trouble pronouncing words.

What steps can I take to lower my child’s risk of educational delay?

Preventive care and treatment

  • Have your child’s hearing, speech, and language evaluated by a team of specialists. This may include:
    • A health care provider who specializes in speech and language development (speech-language pathologist).
    • A health care provider who specializes in hearing problems (audiologist).
    • Other specialists to check for developmental or learning disabilities.
  • Have your child get hearing tests (hearing screenings) as often as recommended. Hearing screenings are often offered by schools, community centers, and your child’s health care provider.
  • Make sure that you know the signs of a speech-language disorder so that you can start treatment as early as possible. Starting treatment early can help prevent or reduce educational delay. Treatment may include:
    • Speech and language therapy.
    • A program to educate your family and get them involved with your child’s long-term treatment.

Helping your child learn

  • Help your child learn at home. This may involve:
    • Helping your child learn new words.
    • Reading to your child.
    • Doing activities recommended by your child’s speech-language pathologist to encourage learning.
  • Work with your child’s teachers and education specialists to make an education program (Individualized Education Program, IEP) that is right for your child. Your child’s IEP will be as similar to the normal school environment as possible (least restrictive environment). Your child’s IEP may include:
    • Having the teacher wear a small microphone that makes his or her voice louder (personal amplification system).
    • Having the teacher wear a small microphone that sends his or her voice to a speaker in the classroom to make it louder (classroom sound field amplification system).
    • Other special equipment to help your child hear, if he or she has hearing loss.
    • Being seated closer to the front of classrooms or away from sources of noise, such as hallways, windows, or air conditioners.
    • Help from a speech-language pathologist in the classroom.
    • Special education program or special education classes, if needed.
    • Programs to help with your child’s social and emotional needs.
  • Work closely with your child’s health care providers and teachers. Your child’s IEP may need to be reviewed and adjusted regularly.
  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s condition and the services provided by your child’s school.

Where to find support

To find support for preventing educational delay due to speech-language disorders:

  • Talk with your child’s health care providers, teachers, and education specialists. Ask about support services and ways to prevent your child from falling behind at school.
  • Consider having your child join an online or in-person support group.

Seek Additional Information

Learn more about speech language disorders and educational delay from:


  • Starting treatment early can help prevent or reduce educational delay due to speech-language disorders.
  • It is important to have your child’s speech and language evaluated by health care providers.
  • Find out what services your child’s school provides to help your child. This may include developing an IEP.