Language delay | Symptoms & Causes | Diagnosis

What this section contains?

Language  delay

What is Language delay?

A language delay is a type of communication disorder. Your child may have a language delay if they don't meet the language developmental milestones for their age. Their language abilities may be developing at a slower rate than most children's. They may have trouble expressing themselves or understanding others.


Language delays are the most frequent developmental delays, and can occur for many reasons. A delay can be due to being a

Diagnosis & Tests

Prevention & Risk Factors

In children

  • talk and read with your child
  • have your child

Treatments & Therapies

The primary objective of treatment for speech and language disorders is to ameliorate a child's communication difficulties and thereby reduce or minimize the negative sequelae associated with these disorders. Optimal treatments would be those that resolved or cured the problem and thus resolved the disability. Indeed, some treatments for speech and language disorders may approach this level of efficacy for some children. Two examples are given here.
First, children born with clefts of the lip and palate are at considerable risk for poor speech intelligibility. Advances in early surgical management of clefts of the lip and/or palate have resulted in substantial improvements in the speech outcomes of affected children, often permitting normal levels of speech development. Although surgery serves as an important treatment, surgery alone is not sufficient in the majority of instances to fully resolve the risk for speech impairment, and behavioral treatment (i.e., speech therapy) often is needed as well.
Similarly, children who are born deaf or hard of hearing have very high rates of speech and language impairment. During the past several decades, auditory prostheses such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, when paired with appropriate and intensive interventions, have been shown to lead to considerable improvements in the speech and language outcomes of these children. Yet despite the effectiveness of these prostheses, the risk of poor speech and language outcomes remains for some children.
Both surgery for cleft lip and palate and the provision of auditory prostheses are interventions directed at the fundamental cause of the speech/language disorder. Each reflects etiologies impacting peripheral systems for communication (anatomical structures for speech or sensory input) that are relatively amenable to direct intervention. For the vast majority of speech and language disorders, however, the cause is unknown or when known, involves developmental impairments of the brain. For these disorders, there currently are no interventions, such as a pharmacological or surgical treatment, that can resolve the cause of the problem and thus result in substantial resolution of the child's disability. Instead, the treatment of these pediatric speech and language disorders consists of behavioral approaches that improve function, and among more severely impaired children, treatment rarely results in resolution of the overall disability.