The Causes of Speech Delay

What is speech delay?

Speech delay (alalia) is defined by a delay in speech development. This means a delay in making the necessary sounds for speech. 

What are some of the signs of speech delay in my child?

A child who is not meeting the developmental milestones for speech may be showing signs of speech delay.

The following milestones are arranged according to age. 

Age Speech Milestone
6-12 months Babbles using different sounds, makes the sounds of certain words but without meaning, says the first word
12-18 months Can speak 2-3 words (often without meaning), attempts to imitate words and sounds
18-24 months Knows and uses up to 50 words, makes animal noises, names common and everyday objects
2-3 years Uses 3-word sentences, begins to use pronouns and adjectives in speech

The Causes of Speech Delay | FDNA HealthWhat are the main causes of speech delay?

  • Hearing ImpairmentThis may be congenital and present at birth. Or it may develop after birth due to underlying health issues, rare disease, or injury and trauma. Hearing checks should be included within infant and child developmental checks throughout a child’s first few years of life.
  • Neglect or a lack of stimulation in a caring environmentChildren who are not spoken to enough, who do not receive adequate parental or attention from a guardian during their formative years may experience speech delay. This delay may be offset by support with speech and language learning.
  • Premature birthPrematurity at birth can be a potential cause of speech delay in a toddler or young child. Being born prematurely can affect different areas of an infant’s development, and often their development should be tracked from their due date and not their actual date of birth.
  • A rare disease or genetic syndromeSpeech delay may sometimes be the sign or symptom of a rare disease. Angelman, Pitt-Hopkins, and Russell Silver syndrome all present with speech delay. If a rare disease is suspected as a cause of speech delay in a child, a recommendation may be made for further assessment, including genetic counseling and analysis.
  • Speech and language disordersThere are several speech and language disorders- autism and auditory processing disorder- which have speech delay as a feature.
  • A physical conditionThis can include damage or an impairment relating to the body’s parts required for speech. This could involve the palate or tongue or a short frenulum (the fold beneath the tongue).

The Causes of Speech Delay | FDNA Health

Tracking your child’s speech development is important in understanding if they have a speech delay or not. Some children develop their speech later and need more time to meet their developmental milestones. Early intervention and support with speech is the key to improving a child’s speech and language outcomes, regardless of the cause of the speech delay. 


FDNA™ Health can bring you closer to a diagnosis.
Learn here about symptoms and conditions and contact your clinician.