How We Can Help Speech and Language Delays

The voice can only reproduce what the ear hears.” ~Dr. Alfred Tomatis

If your child is not achieving language and speech milestones, he or she might be experiencing a delay in these areas. Our precision on how we understand and analyze sound is directly linked to how we reproduce it. As what Dr. Dmitri Christakis’, pediatrician and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said in his TEDx forum about how important early sensory stimulation helps in brain development.

“…any child born anywhere in the world can learn to speak English fluently. But if she isn’t exposed to certain sounds early in the first few years of her life. She can learn to speak another language later but she’ll never sound like a native speaker. So baby born today in mainland China… can learn to speak fluent Mandarin, but if she doesn’t hear English sounds early in her life, she can learn to speak English later but as we all know…she’ll struggle making certain sounds. It wasn’t because she wasn’t born with that capacity was because her early experience didn’t condition her mind to learn them…”

Early diagnosis is the key

The first thing in evaluating the problem is to rule out hearing or listening problem. Listening as auditory processing issue is the most common cause of language problems. Most of such cases, as well, are caused by underlying conditions such as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). It is best to seek professional help and get your child assessed to rule out other underlying conditions.

Retrain the brain at an early age using the Tomatis® Method

The Tomatis® Method is an educational program that utilises a neurosensory-integrative approach in addressing developmental delays. It is neuro-sensory as it primarily affects the relationship between the ear, the brain, and the voice in helping people with delayed language acquisition.

Verbal language, in particular, is characterized by tone (pitch, quality, and sound), rhythm (strong, repetitive pattern), and diction (choice of words). Each aspect is marked by more minute, but significant factors in a cascade of sounds. The Tomatis® Method treats the voice of the child or adult by transmitting it via the air and bone conduction. In this manner, the fundamental sounds of language are repetitively stimulating the brain retraining it to “listen” and helping children and adults overcome language difficulties.

Being able to provide interventions during the early childhood years is critical. This is because these are the years where the brain is significantly growing and comprehensively developing. In this way, the Tomatis® Method will be able to make huge impacts for the benefit of your child’s future at a crucial stage of their lives. Tell us your observations in our Listening Checklist page and let your concerns be heard!

At an early age, individuals develop speech and language skills at a different pace from one another.You may have started to speak words clearly earlier than your older sibling did.

Amidst the variability, there are age-expected levels known as developmental milestones that help parents, educators, and health professionals identify those with speech and language delays. It is very important to recognise this developmental delay at an early stage since the early childhood years have the greatest impacts later in life.

Toddlers with speech and language delays do not make or respond to communication; they are often not responsive to carers; they tend to jargon, they tend to point or use body language more than using language when trying to communicate.

To be more specific, there are different kinds of delays and/or disorders in this area. When producing sounds is difficult like have a hard time getting the words out, take long pauses between their words, and other behaviours persist and distract the listener, one may have a speech or fluency delay.

When someone exhibits significant unusual voice quality such as hoarseness, breathiness or who speaks too loud or too soft might be demonstrating a voice disorder.

If your little one has a difficulty expressing his/her ideas, needs, and wants, they might make use of nonverbal gestures or become easily frustrated if the adult does not understand their request. When it is persistent, this can lead to disruptive behaviour. This may signal an expressive language disorder.

People with expressive language disorder are known to confuse words, such as pronouns, for example, he/she might say “Him hit me.” They also frequently substitute vague words such as “thing” or “stuff” instead of specific labels. This grows into a concern if more and more specific words are not used at all.

On the other hand, if you or your learner is having a persistent trouble in understanding what he/she had just heard, then you may have the receptive language disorder. Typically, this difficulty begins at the age of three years. Those with this kind of disorder cannot easily or correctly respond to questions and execute the appropriate behaviour.

Some children often repeat the words (echolalia) in a question instead of answering them. For instance, “Do you want a cookie?” The child says, “Want a cookie?” You may also find yourself repeating a question a couple of time because children with this disorder would usually take a long time in expressing their thoughts.

To enable and improve their listening skills, it is very important for you, your young learners, or someone you know with speech and language delays to take an active intervention such as the Tomatis® Method. Learn more about speech and language delays and how we can help below!

A language disorder refers to problems in communication. There are three (3) types of language disorders:

Expressive language disorder is the difficulty of getting one’s message/meaning across to others or not being able to have a conversation with someone. For example, “I want to play puter“.

Receptive language disorder is the difficulty of understanding the message coming from others. Meaning, the child does not understand what parents or teachers want them to do. For instance:
Q: How old are you?
A: Fine.

Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder is the difficulty in saying things, thoughts, and emotions and understanding what he/she has been told.

For example:
Blank face: This is because the child does not understand; hence, does not respond

You have to know that language disorders can either be developmental or acquired. Aphasia (a difficulty in communicating and understanding due to a stroke or brain injury) is an example of an acquired language disorder that shows up only after the person had a brain illness (i.e. stroke) or traumatic head injury. However, language disorders are often to be evident and common in children. The delay or problem is not due to lack of intelligence but instead, to the immaturity in the brain’s development.

Like other neurodevelopmental disorders, language disorders have no one specific cause. However, there are several factors associated with its occurrence.

• Developmental speech and language disorder: The brain is working differently.

• Genes and heredity: About 20-40% of children have a family history of speech and language disorders.

• Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): The brain does not understand what the ear hears. The hearing ability is good but the processing or comprehension is dysfunctional.

According to Dr. Tomatis, “The voice can only reproduce what the ear can hear.” Hence, any change or stimulation in listening patterns leads to an immediate change in speech and other forms of oral expression. However, if the brain cannot process the auditory information itself, then vocal production is impaired.

• Prenatal development and nutrition: The mom’s pregnancy is very crucial to the child’s development. Exposure to certain chemicals and other agents can have a huge impact on the growth of the brain.

• Neurological problems: For example, cerebral palsy, traumatic head/brain injury, etc.

• Other major disorders: Language disorders can co-exist with other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, premature birth, and also other language disorders.

The most apparent signs of a language delay are based on the child’s ability and level of aptitude and skill in communication. Each child has a developmental milestone to achieve and if the child has not developed compared to children with the same age, then a language delay could be possibly present. Here are some of the signs of speech and language delays:

• Limited vocabulary
• Stuttering, fillers (i.e. umm) and substituting general words like “stuff” and “things” for more precise words
• Repetition of phrases (echolalia)
• Trouble understanding what other people say
• Difficulty in following instructions and directions
• Late to start talking and not speak until age 2
• Talking gibberish sounds
• Inability to describe stories
• Frustration over inability to express thoughts
• Might act aggressively because they cannot resolve problems verbally
• Poor grasp of grammar
• Confuses verbs and makes use of key words
• Understanding and retaining the details of reading materials
• Following directions that are either heard or read
• Reading and comprehension
• Identifying letters, numbers, and alphabet
• Mixing up order of letters, numbers especially in sequence (i.e. telephone numbers, songs, and rhymes)
• Response to sound or vocalizing
• Still using gestures by the age of 2 and later

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The Tomatis® Method is definitely the best gift to you or your child! Contact Françoise Nicoloff or any of the Tomatis® professionals in Australia to get started today!

Does your child or someone you know exhibit the following struggles?

If many of the troubles apply to you or your child, you or your child may have a listening dysfunction. Use this form to select any difficulties that apply to you and then fill in your contact details if you would like to speak with us.