Category: Speech

Although language is a natural part of our communication skills, it doesn’t always come easy. Speech therapy can play an influential role in helping individuals with pragmatics, which are necessary skills to have for person-to-person communication. Let’s take a deep dive into what pragmatic language skills are and how you can use services like speech therapy and ABA therapy to improve your skills.


What Are Pragmatic Language Skills?

Pragmatics is the rules that govern our language system and explain the relationship between words and word use. Language is essential to effectively communicate, especially with children working to develop their language and speech skills. Speaking and understanding is a huge part of how we effectively communicate with one another.

Pragmatics is the way we use language to connect with others. This can include verbal and non-verbal language such as body language, eye-contact, using or understanding jokes, asking and answering questions, repairing communication breakdowns, or getting the attention of others.

Some examples of pragmatics include the following:

  • Verbal communication
  • Reciprocal play
  • Social behavior necessary for communication
  • Imitation
  • Joint attention
  • Turn-taking


Though the definition of pragmatics can seem complicated, the idea is more simplistic in practice. A lack of pragmatic language skills can be found when the speaker cannot effectively communicate what they say to what they mean. Learning pragmatics can be challenging on your own – we recommend seeking assistance from a therapist specializing in speech or ABA therapy to get started.


How Speech Therapy Helps with Pragmatics

Language rules and functions are essential in childhood development and learning, but sometimes, children need additional help through speech therapy to help with pragmatic language skills. A speech-language pathologist works towards addressing the various challenges a child may have with language and communication, including pragmatics.

With the assistance and support of a speech therapist, individuals can use these techniques to strengthen and learn pragmatics:

  • Reciprocal play
  • Peer to peer interactions
  • Conversational turn-taking
  • The body orientation and proximity
  • Theory of mind
  • Understanding non-verbal language and body language of others


There are so many benefits that speech-language pathologists can help provide in teaching pragmatics and strengthening other areas of this discipline. Without intervention, these language issues can persist, making classroom learning and interaction extremely difficult. When your child learns the skills to strengthen their language and communication, you will see their confidence soar.

If issues with pragmatics are just one bump in the road of autism disorder, see how ABA therapy can help.


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Pragmatic language impairment or pragmatic language issues can be a common issue in children with autism. ABA therapy can help children and individuals learn pragmatics with a variety of language stimulation strategies. A therapist’s skills can help alleviate several issues beyond language, such as understanding the link between mindfulness and autism. Early intervention is critical when it comes to language issues in children with autism.

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Every moment after a child’s birth is a critical point in time for their always-learning, always-growing selves. While children are consistently taking in their surroundings and learning from their interactions, there are age-specific milestones that they should be close in line to hit. If you are worried that your child may be falling behind and not developing at the correct pace, this may be a sign that your child is experiencing a developmental delay.

Paying close attention to critical aspects of your children’s interactions such as emotional responses or childhood speech can be telling and allow you to step in early and seek childhood speech therapy or Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy when necessary.

We will take a deep dive into these four main categories of childhood development:

  • Speech and language delays
  • Motor skills
  • Social development
  • Cognitive skills


This guide will provide a comprehensive summary of these various childhood developmental categories, why they are essential, and how you can spot early signs of delays. If any of these childhood speech delays or other developments resonate with your child, we will guide you on when to seek the counsel of speech therapy. Childhood development delays can seem mild, but it’s essential to be mindful and aware of critical developmental milestones to spot any hindrances early on.


What Are Childhood Speech and Language Delays?

Childhood speech and language are a crucial part of a child’s development and growth, interacting with other aspects of life. The presence of childhood speech and language delays could stem from several reasons, including development disorders or hearing impairment. Speech therapy can help to identify and distinguish hearing issues against childhood speech and language delays. Language delays can inhibit a child’s social interactions, cause undesirable behavior, and low academic skills.


Below are a few common types of childhood speech and language delays and disorders:

  • Childhood apraxia of speech – a childhood speech disorder relating to the inability or difficulty of executing speech movements in sequence.
  • Expressive language delays – difficulty using words to communicate.
  • Late talkers – Used to describe a limited spoken vocabulary in comparison to peers.
  • Learning disabilities – difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling.
  • Dysarthria – a motor speech disorder caused by weakened vocal muscles.


If your child is not exhibiting any signs of developmental delays, you will still benefit from learning how to spot red flags in their development. By understanding the development of childhood speech and language skills, you can better recognize and support your child’s speech and language needs and, most importantly, know when to seek a speech therapist’s intervention.


Spotting Early Signs of Language Delays

Childhood speech and language delays can come in many different forms. By being an observant and active caregiver, you can spot early indications of any issues. We often speak in exaggerated expressions when communicating with children, and for a good reason. Children are always learning and absorbing from their surroundings. These exaggerated expressions help promote imitation to children, which is a critical factor in early childhood speech and language development. You can spot signs of language delays as early as two months old and possibly even earlier.


You can spot signs of language delays by a lack of imitation, lack of eye contact, or even non-responsiveness, though non-responsiveness could also be a sign of hearing issues. These communication avenues can be observed as early as infancy. The earliest signs of speaking from an infant are in the form of cooing or babbling. If your baby is not babbling, not making gestures, or not engaging with you via eye contact during play, this could be a sign of a speech or language delay.


Late Talkers

Toddlers aged 18-30 months will begin speaking in small, shorter sentences – this is not abnormal and not a late talker sign. The late talker language delay is defined by limited childhood speech after the age of 30 months. You can begin to watch for signs of a late talker speech delay at whatever age your child may start wanting to speak and trying to form sentences. Though it is common for children sometimes to confuse their words or meanings, a consistent presence of this issue could be a sign of a late talker. Late talkers often experience word mix-up or confusion. Without a resolution of late talkers, this confusion can carry on into preschool-ages and have a long-term effect on a child’s academics, social interaction, and overall confidence speaking.

Childhood speech issues can manifest into a late talker child based on these risk factors: comprehension issues, limited gesture use, and family history. If you notice any of these signs, it is time to seek the intervention of speech therapy. Childhood Speech and language delays can cause significant issues if left untreated, and therefore early intervention in the form of speech therapy is critical. A late talker’s language delays may or may not be corrected after social interaction and social exposure, so it’s best to seek speech therapy at the first sign of late talkers.


When to Seek Speech Therapy for Language Delays

If you begin to notice signs of childhood speech issues, it is best to reach out to a speech therapist’s professional counsel as early as possible. A rapid and timely intervention can make an impactful difference in getting your child’s speech and language delays back on track. In the case of late talkers, progress can be made relatively quickly under a speech therapist’s guidance. You can learn more about helping late talkers with alternate communication strategies, such as American Sign Language (ASL), from a speech therapist.

For other childhood speech and language delays, a speech therapist can work with both children and parents to develop a care plan that is individualized for each child’s needs. Factors like environment and other interactions can be critical in their growth and development. A speech therapist will guide parents on altering a child’s environment and interactions for optimal childhood speech and language development and benefits.

Whether your child is a late talker or a troubled speller, speech therapy can support a child to manage their disorders or issues early on. A speech therapist can also reveal if childhood speech and language delays are signs of a neurological disorder, such as autism disorder. In this case, a speech therapist may recommend ABA therapy, which we will get into later on.


Delayed Motor Skills

There are two categories of motor skills that we look at when it comes to childhood development: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve using the main, more massive muscle groups to move about. Some examples of gross motor skills include sitting, walking, and balancing. Fine motor skills refer to a more robust set of skills needed for more complex tasks such as eating, writing, and playing.

Children work on gross motor skills in early infancy and advance into more refined motor skills later on in early childhood. Gross motor skills serve as the framework for more advanced fine motor skills, making them an essential part of a child’s development.

Delayed motor skills can surface in a few different ways:

  • Delayed maturation
  • Disbalance
  • Discoordination

Delayed maturation refers to the ability to use gross motor skills, but within an appropriate range of the specific milestones, they should. Disbalance refers to a child’s inability to balance – this can manifest in both sitting and standing. Balance is necessary for a child to sit upright, stand, walk, and so much more. An uncoordinated child is not able to move all or parts of their body well. Most children, especially when learning to walk, will seem a little clumsy and off-kilter as they find their balance. The lack of coordination manifests into an underperformance of gross motor skills.


How to Improve Your Child’s Motor Skills

You can help your infant refine their gross and fine motor skills with activities such as playtime, tummy time, encouraging crawling, and sensory activities. Infants are also working on their gross motor skills during feedings. Reaching for a bottle or feeding themselves with utensils or fingers is an excellent activity for young children to practice their gross motor skills.


As children develop their gross motor skills, they will begin to define their fine motor skills even further. There are several playtime activities and games that can help toddlers practice their fine motor skills, such as arts and crafts, playing sports, and playing with interactive toys.


Social and Emotional Development and Impacts of Delays

Children are continually learning and developing different communication skills. Their social development and skills are mostly learned in settings involving interaction with new people, such as a playdate or starting school or daycare. Emotional skills factor into how a child communicates, especially in these social situations.

A child will learn social and emotional skills when dealing with unfavorable interactions, such as playing with another child that refuses to share. The social and emotional skills learned at a young age teach children how to respond to a situation effectively.

Social and emotional development delays can surface these types of behaviors:

  • Social awkwardness
  • Inability or difficulty initiating conversation
  • Difficulty coping
  • Prolonged temper tantrums or outbursts

These behaviors can signal to parents that a child is experiencing social or emotional developmental delays. In this case, children will require additional support and guidance to manage these behaviors. A therapist will teach children how to modify their response in dealing with new social and emotional challenges.

Without the proper social and emotional skills, communicating and interacting with others can become very difficult. ABA therapy can help children with autism work on their communication skills and further develop their social skills.


Red Flags for Cognitive Development

Cognitive development delays are arguably the most critical part of childhood development. Cognitive delays affect all other areas of a child’s development, including childhood speech, language skills, and social and emotional development. Cognitive delays can be found in infancy.

To spot early signs of cognitive development delays, look for these signs:

  • Lack of interest in playtime
  • Disinterest in the environment
  • Slow to respond
  • Lack of curiosity


If your child is experiencing any signs of cognitive issues or other developmental delays, a speech therapist can work with you and the child to get back on track. Cognitive development can also be a sign of a disorder, such as autism disorder. In this case, a therapist may recommend ABA therapy. Seek the professional counsel of a trusted and licensed speech therapist before assuming any disorders resulting from a childhood speech and language delay.


ABA Therapy for Autism Disorder

In some cases, childhood development delays can be the sign of a more significant issue or a disorder that would benefit from ABA therapy services. While speech therapy focuses on expressing both verbal and non-verbal language, ABA therapy focuses on the various behaviors that may affect children’s environment with an autism diagnosis. If you are working to better support your child with autism, ABA therapists seek to do just that with both parents and children with autism.

ABA therapy is a specialized and flexible treatment created to suit the individual needs of your child. ABA therapy uses the concept of significant generalization, which allows the child to use the new skills learned in ABA therapy and apply them to different settings with different people. In ABA therapy, you will have the support of a professional therapist to explain the many ways in which you can support your child, such as the benefits of routines for children with autism and understanding the impact of mindfulness on this disorder.

The ABA therapy program at Blossom Behavioral Wellness center includes learnings from these successful models:

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  • Natural Environment Teaching (NET)
  • DI (Direct Instruction)


When it comes to childhood developmental delays, time is of the essence. With early intervention in speech therapy and ABA therapy, these developmental delays can go from off-track to in order. Through modeling, repetition, and positive reinforcements, your child can overcome developmental delays with ABA therapy.

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A child in speech therapy.

Language and speech development plays an essential role in your child’s growth and development. While many disorders and incidents can lead to speech issues, it is not uncommon for non-disordered children to seek speech therapy to improve how they speak, understand, or even read. When it comes to speech development, early intervention is best for combatting any speech issues.

In this guide, we’ll learn about tracking your child’s speech development, when to intervene with speech therapy, and what conditions may lead to speech development issues. By knowing the speech and language milestones your child should be hitting, you will be a more-equipped parent to spot issues early on and take action with speech therapy.

The Importance of Speech and Language Development

Early childhood is such a critical time for a child’s speech and language development. Children are regularly exposed to speech, language, sights, and sounds from infancy to three-year-old ages. These exposures play a crucial role in their own speech development as they move from cooing babies to echoing their parents’ sounds.

Without proper exposure to language during this critical period, children will have difficulty developing their speech, especially as they age past three years old. Take note of how changing your daily routines can positively impact your child’s speech and language development.

Early Signs of Speech and Language Issues

Spotting and mitigating speech and language issues early on is vital in repairing these developmental communication tools. Speaking and language issues in young children will only worsen if left unattended. As children enter preschool, communicating, and interacting with teachers and other children will prove difficult. This communication gap can be challenging and frustrating for children. If your child has ASD (autism spectrum disorder) or another speaking disorder or condition preventing their speech and language development, you can take action by seeking the counsel of a speech therapist.

If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, it may be time to talk to a speech pathologist:

● Stuttering
● Unclear speech
● Difficulty with pronunciation
● Only speaking a select few words
● Unintelligible words

If your child is hearing impaired or has ASD, they are more likely to experience speech and language development issues. Learn how speech and language therapy intervention can aid speech disordered or ASD children with their speech and language developmental issues.

Seeking Speech Therapy for Your Child

Your child doesn’t need to have overt speech issues for you to seek speech therapy. Speech therapy can assist in better articulation, fluency, and resonance when speaking. If your child is experiencing any range of speech processing, it may be time to seek the counsel of a speech and language pathologist in ABA therapy. Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center offers speech therapy to encourage language and speech development in young children.

Early childhood development plays such a critical role in your child’s speech and language understanding and development. Whether your child has a disorder or is neurotypical, spotting the signs of speech issues early on is critical in an intervention. A speech therapist can also help answer any speech and language questions you might have relating to your child’s development.

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A girl in speech language therapy.

Language development begins in the early stages of infancy and helps us communicate with one another. Language encompasses how we create words and how we put them together, their meanings, and how we can apply language in various social situations. Both expressive language and receptive language help us understand the world around us while sharing our wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. When receptive language or expressive language does not develop correctly in your child, they may experience trouble understanding and reading others, sharing with others, and may develop a language disorder. While language disorders can affect their receptive language or expressive language, it’s essential to know the difference between them to begin addressing their receptive language or expressive language difficulties. Let’s take a look at:

  • The differences between receptive language and expressive language
  • Typically developing language
  • Receptive language and expressive language in children with autism
  • Speech-Language Therapy


What is Expressive Language?

Expressive language is your child’s ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings through the use of:

  • Signs
  • Words
  • Gestures
  • Drawings or symbols

The use of expressive language can be as simple as pointing to a person, food, or toy. While talking is the main form of expressive language, other strategies can be just as effective.

Expressive language utilizes many forms as your child gets older to communicate with family, peers, and caregivers.

  • Sign language
  • Images
  • Speech-generating device
  • Writing

Let’s break it down a step further. Think of expressive language as an output. This output of language is your child’s ability to express their desires and needs through verbal or nonverbal communication. Expressive language use is eventually forming these thoughts into words and sentences that make sense and are grammatically correct.


What is Receptive Language?

Listening is an essential component of receptive language but involves much more than that. Receptive language is the process of understanding information, whether through:


  • Sounds and words
  • Movement and gestures
  • Signs
  • Symbols

Children typically acquire various receptive language elements much faster than expressive language, making their receptive language vocabulary larger than their expressive language.

Think of receptive language as input – your child’s ability to understand and comprehend spoken language and language they read. Receptive language includes listening and following directions. During typical development, children are beginning to understand language before they can produce it.


Expressive Language and Receptive Language in Typically Developing Children

Understanding how language skills typically develop requires looking into the critical first three years of your child’s life. Meeting milestones helps us understand where a child may begin to have difficulties with their speech and language development.


Speech and Language Development

During your child’s first three years, their brain develops rapidly. This timeframe is the most crucial period for them to acquire vital speech and language skills. These skills develop best when caregivers immerse them in various stimuli, including sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to others’ speech and language.

Crucial periods for speech and language development exist between infancy and early childhood. During these crucial periods, their brain is absorbing language rapidly and effectively. But, if children do not receive proper speech and language exposure during these critical periods, communication learning becomes difficult for them.

Each child’s language development varies but referring to a basic guideline for these milestones will help you monitor their progression:


Language Milestones for Children

0 to 3 months:

  • Smiling at familiar faces
  • Cooing
  • A different cry for different needs
  • Calms or smiles when spoken to


4 to 6 months:

  • Giggling
  • Babbling using different sounds
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
  • Moves eyes in the direction of sounds


6 months to 1 year:

  • Uses speech to get attention
  • Uses small gestures to communicate
  • Imitates various speech sounds
  • Using one or two words appropriately and consistently
  • Enjoys playing games (peek-a-boo)


1 year to 18 months:

  • Shakes head “no”
  • Uses twenty-five words
  • Communicates their needs using single words
  • Points to objects when you name them
  • Follows straightforward one- and two-step commands


18 months to 2 years old:

  • Uses 50-200 words
  • Responds appropriately to “yes/no” questions
  • Asks, “what’s that?”
  • Able to name everyday objects



Language Difficulties in Children with Autism

Children with ASD often struggle with the ability to communicate and interact successfully with others. You may notice your child has difficulty developing introductory speech and language skills and understanding what others are trying to express. Even the simplest of receptive language and expressive language is a challenge for them, including:

  • Hand gestures
  • Making eye contact
  • Reading or conveying facial expressions


Your child’s ability to use speech and language tools effectively may depend on their intellectual and social development. Often, children with autism cannot communicate using speech or language, while others have limited speaking skills. And other children with ASD have extensive vocabularies, ability to communicate about a particular subject extensively.

Children with autism tend to struggle with the meanings and rhythms of words and sentences. They have trouble reading and understanding their peers’ and caregivers’ body language and vocal tones, limiting their ability to respond correctly, socially interact, or form connections.

Children with autism tend to exhibit expressive language and receptive language difficulties, such as:

  • Rigid or repetitive language
  • Communicate only about narrow interests
  • Uneven language development

The most common speech and language struggles children with autism experience are:


Producing Sounds

Roughly one in three people with autism struggles producing speech sounds effectively. They may:

  • Babble with word-like sounds
  • Parrot
  • Hum or talk in musical rhythm
  • May use the correct words and sentences, but with an expressionless tone of voice
  • Grunt, shriek, use harsh sounds and use loud cries
  • Be completely nonverbal


Limiting Language Abilities


  • Ability to memorize but lack understanding of words they use
  • Heavy reliance on echolalia to communicate


Helpful Strategies to Develop your Child’s Receptive and Expressive Language Skills: 

  • Develop Daily Routines: Consistent daily routines provide children with autism a predictable schedule. Structure helps them thrive while feeling safe and secure in their environments. A predictable routine allows your child to understand better and use language appropriate for each situation. It exposes them to a consistent set of words in a familiar context, strengthening receptive and expressive language practices.
  • Develop Joint Attention: Joint attention refers to two or more people sharing their attention with one object or activity together. You and your child can practice tuning into each other’s communications and reactions to the object or activity.
  • Social Interaction: Create new opportunities for your child to interact with different people. This additional interaction helps teach them social norms, exposes them to language naturally, and encourages them to communicate with others appropriately.
  • Language Development Through Play: Participating in various play types will help them explore and understand their environments in different ways. During play, encourage and model new ways for them to use their expressive and receptive language skills.



Speech-Language Therapy

Speech therapy helps improve your child’s overall communication skills. This practice dramatically increases your child’s ability to form relationships, respond appropriately in situations, communicate wants and needs, and function to the best of their ability in daily life.

Speech and language delays may be recognizable as early as eighteen months of age. If concerns arise, visit your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a speech therapist. Early intervention will have the most significant impact on your child’s success.


The Speech-Language Process: What to Expect

Speech-language pathologists are essential for your child’s autism treatment team. A speech-language pathologist will administer a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s communication abilities, looking at both receptive language and expressive language skills. Your child’s therapist then determines a course of treatment and individualized goals according to their needs and is often the first therapist to recognize additional concerns and make necessary referrals to other specialists and ABA services.

Your child’s speech-language pathologist will work closely with your family and additional caregivers throughout therapy, ensuring everyone is in tune and working towards your child’s primary goals. Your child’s therapist may recommend strategies and tools, including:

  • Massaging and exercising their lips and facial muscles to improve articulation
  • An array of electronic gadgets and tools to “speak” for your child
  • Sign language
  • Typing devices
  • Picture boards and other image-communication devices


Receptive Language Difficulties

Children who are unable to comprehend language may have receptive language difficulties or a receptive language disorder. During speech and language therapy, receptive language goals might include:

  • Following multistep and straightforward directions
  • Answering basic comprehension questions
  • Understanding basic vocabulary words
  • Making inferences or making predictions based upon a picture or story
  • Articulation of words
  • Communicating verbally and nonverbally
  • Ability to exchange ideas successfully
  • Communicating in ways which form and strengthen relationships
  • Communicating, playing, and interacting with their peers and caregivers
  • Learning to self-regulate
  • Understanding verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Understanding the intentions of others in various settings
  • Initiating communication without prompting from others
  • Understanding and recognizing appropriate times and places to communicate and how to appropriately communicate something
  • Developing adequate conversational skills
  • Respond to your child’s sounds, gestures, and gurgling from infancy
  • Repeat their sounds, words, and attempts at words, continuing the conversation to introduce them to new vocabulary and facial expressions
  • Talk about the world around them, in various environments, pointing to what you see or hear at the store, in the car, or on walks
  • Ask questions often and encourage their responses
  • Sing songs and rhymes often
  • Read to your child often. Select complex books as your child progresses with their language skills. Reading to your child allows them to hear words in different contexts, helping them learn meanings and model tone
  • Relate books to events, people, and objects in your child’s life. For instance, going to a doctor’s appointment or learning about caring for a pet. Encourage your child to point out characters or talk about what may happen next and why they predict it.


Speech-Language Therapy for Receptive Language

SLP is highly effective in improving receptive language skills in children with autism. A speech-language pathologist will use various informal and formal assessments to determine your child’s specific receptive language strengths and deficiencies. They will then create a comprehensive treatment plan for your child. These goals may focus on:

  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Vocabulary
  • Understanding grammar
  • Figurative language
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Following directions

Speech therapy for receptive language difficulties is specific to each child’s needs, and a course of action is built around them. Improving their receptive language skills will help your child begin to participate in their daily activities independently.


Speech-Language Therapy for Expressive Language

Speech therapy is effective in improving expressive language delays and deficits. Expressive language therapy focuses on giving each child the tools and strategies they need to communicate their needs, thoughts, and ideas to the world.


Expressive Language Disorder

An expressive language disorder occurs when your child has difficulty using words to communicate their needs and thoughts. Children who struggle with an expressive language disorder may:

  • Leave words out of their sentences
  • Mix up word tenses
  • Repeat phrases or portions of a sentence

An expressive language disorder can lead to additional problems in your child’s social settings and later at school. Your child may have expressive language difficulties if they cannot communicate even the most basic needs, including the need to use the bathroom or if they are hungry.

As they continue to grow, it is essential to watch for signs your child has difficulty producing language, including struggling with:

  • Basic vocabulary
  • Making comments
  • Asking questions
  • Naming common objects
  • Using gestures
  • Using facial expressions
  • Proper syntax (grammar rules)
  • Proper semantics (word/sentence meaning)
  • Morphology (the forming of words)


Early intervention methods with a team of ABA and speech therapists can properly diagnose your child’s difficulties and begin proper treatment plans to strengthen their receptive and expressive language abilities. Finding the therapists and programs that suit the needs of your child and family is essential. That’s why we, at Blossom Behavior Wellness Center, believe in providing all-encompassing services and support for the entire family. As a whole-child facility, we believe in providing a team of highly trained professionals who dedicate themselves to the wellbeing of your child and family unit. For more information on our programs, services, and abundance of resources, we invite you to schedule an appointment today.

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