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May is Better Hearing & Speech Month — Time to Identify the Signs!

May 22nd, 2014 | by NAPA Team
NAPA Team

NAPA Team

May 22nd, 2014

A new, nationwide effort to educate the public about communication disorders was recently launched by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Called Identify the Signs, this campaign specifically aims to help people recognize the early warning signs of communication disorders. This topic couldn’t be timelier—or more important.

An estimated 40 million Americans have trouble speaking or hearing due to a communication disorder. Millions more family members and friends are also impacted. All across the country, there are parents reading this whose children are struggling to speak or understand language; spouses living with partners whose hearing is deteriorating; and co-workers, neighbors and others who see someone who needs help but don’t know what to do. Identify the Signs offers tools to change that, and us at NAPA Center couldn’t support the campaign more.

With years of experience working in the field of communication disorders, we have seen the debilitating effects that these issues can have when left unaddressed. Too often, people wrestle with these challenges for years because they fail to receive proper, timely treatment. Early detection of speech, language, and hearing issues is absolutely critical to improving academic, social, and career outcomes—and improving one’s quality of life at any age.

The early stages of communication disorders are easier to spot when you know the signs. Here is a list of signs of common speech and language disorders in children from birth to 4 years of age:

 

Signs of a Language Disorder:

  • Does not smile or interact with others (birth and older)
  • Does not babble (4-7 months)
  • Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7-12 months)
  • Does not understand what others say (7 months-2 years)
  • Says only a few words (12-18 months)
  • Words are not easily understood (18 months-2 years)
  • Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2-3 years)
  • Has trouble with early reading and writing skills (2.5-3 years)

 

Signs of a Speech Sound Disorder:

  • Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1-2 years)
  • Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2-3 years)
  • Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2-3 years)

 

Signs of Stuttering (Disfluency):

  • Struggles to say sounds or words (2.5-3 years)
  • Repeats first sounds or words—“b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (2.5-3 years)
  • Pauses a lot while talking (2.5-3 years)
  • Stretches sounds out—“f-f-f-f-farm” for “farm” (2.5-3 years)

 

Signs of a Voice Disorder:

  • Uses a hoarse or breathy voice
  • Uses a nasal-sounding voice

 
For people with communication disorders, those closest to them are often their biggest asset. Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are unable to identify the warning signs or dismiss them too readily. A recent poll of speech-language pathologists and audiologists by ASHA reported significant parental delays in getting help for children with communication difficulties. This is just one example of the missed opportunities that commonly occur with communication disorders.

Through a series of TV, radio, print, digital public service announcements, and the campaign website, the public can learn about the warning signs and be connected to professional help. We encourage you to visit the website, and share the information and resources you find there. Above all, though, we hope you will seek help if you suspect that you or a loved one shows signs of having a disorder.

Untreated communication disorders often lead to larger academic, social, and developmental issues. Early diagnosis is the most powerful way to reduce or even reverse their impact and can give your loved ones the opportunity to lead the fullest lives possible.

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