Communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in children. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- Nearly 1 in 12 children, ages 3-17, has had a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing
- Nearly 11% of children among children ages 3-6 have a communication disorder
These statistics reveal that communication disorders are more common in kids than we think. Though communication disorders are highly treatable, parents typically wait longer to seek treatment. Untreated communication disorders can significantly impact learning, behavior, and social interactions.
Early intervention is absolutely critical and can prevent problems from becoming worse. It is important to be fully aware of the symptoms, common communication disorders, and effective treatment options.
Common Communication Disorders
Communication disorders involve issues with voice, speech, and language. Often, difficulty in one area can impact another. Common types of disorders include:
- Expressive Language Disorder: refers to difficulty with speech and vocabulary, speaking and communicating verbally is challenging. Children can have issues remembering words, have a limited vocabulary, struggle using proper tenses, they may use simple sentences and phrases to communicate etc.
- Phonological Disorder: is more related to speech. Children have difficulty using the speech that is appropriate for their age and the developmental stage they are in. There are delays in producing the speech and sound for their age, articulation is challenging, they might substitute sounds, and struggle producing complex sentences.
- Mixed: is a combination of the previous disorders and is when children have difficulty with understanding and communicating (verbalizing) language.
These disorders are a broad reference point and there are subtypes and they can range from mild to severe.
There is a wide range of factors that can contribute to the development of a communication disorder in children. One of the most common causes is hearing loss which impacts nearly 15% of all school-aged children. Hearing loss can result from existing medical conditions, genetic history, and environmental exposure to loud noise. It is a condition that can deeply affect communication and overall health if left untreated. Children with hearing loss can experience:
- Difficulty following conversations as sounds are muffled
- Struggle identifying distinct words
- Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise
- Ability to hear better in one hear over the other
These symptoms strain communication and can cause kids to avoid social engagement, communicating needs, and participating in activities.
Other causes of communication disorders include:
- Brain injury
- Nervous system disorder that impacts the muscles used for speech
- Attention deficit or hyperactive disorder
- Developmental or neurological disorder
Fortunately, there are useful ways to treat communication disorders that can drastically improve learning and behavioral outcomes.
There are various types of health professionals that have the expertise to treat communication disorders. Depending on the specific disorder and underlying causes, you could be referred to a speech and language pathologist or audiologist for further consultation and examination. Treatment can include the following:
- Speech Therapy: involves using different strategies and activities to build language and communication skills. This helps children develop a greater vocabulary, organize their thoughts, and articulate accurately
- Behavior Therapy: works on developing useful coping and intrapersonal skills, effective communication behavior, and managing disruptive behavior. This is particularly useful for children with attention deficit or hyperactive disorder.
- Some doctors may recommend medication to treat symptoms for a behavioral disorder
- Environmental Changes: children with a communication disorder would likely benefit from additional time, quieter space, and attention which are common recommendations
- Assessing & Treating Hearing Loss: In addition to these interventions, the child’s hearing should be assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist like an audiologist. Hearing tests are noninvasive and determine any hearing loss, the type, and degree of impairment. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids which are small electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This increases a person’s ability to hear which strengthens communication.
If you recognize any of the symptoms discussed, it is imperative to have your child examined by a health professional. Early intervention can improve their overall well-being! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.