Speech Delays and Language Disorders Caused by Birth Injuries like HIE
Speech delays and language disorders are two distinct but interrelated conditions. A person with speech delays may have difficulty forming words or articulating certain sounds. Speech disorders relate specifically to the physical production of verbal speech. Language disorders refer to limitations in communicating meaning and underlying language structure. This could mean a limitation in understanding language (receptive language disorders) or in communicating outwardly (expressive language disorder).
What’s the Difference Between Speech Delays and Language Disorders?
Speech delays and developmental language disorders are the most common childhood developmental disabilities. Speech is the sound that comes out of a child’s mouth. Language has to do with meaning rather than sounds. Language is a measure of intelligence; language disorders are a more serious problem than speech disorders.
Language disorders and delays refer to problems with:
- A child’s ability to get meaning or messages across to others. This is known as an expressive language disorder.
- A child’s ability to understand the message coming from someone else. This is known as a receptive language disorder.
A child can have an expressive language disorder or a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. A child with a language disorder is able to produce sound and have their speech understood by others.
Most children naturally develop language, starting at birth. Being able to see, hear, understand and remember is crucial for language development. Children also need the physical ability to form speech. Problems with receptive language skills usually begin before a child is four years old. Language disorders often occur in children with other developmental problems, autism spectrum disorder, hearing loss and learning disabilities, and they are frequently caused by damage to the brain.
Signs and Symptoms of Language Disorders
Children with language disorders typically have one, two, or more of the following signs and symptoms:
Signs and Symptoms of Receptive Language Disorders
Children with a receptive language disorder may have:
- A difficult time understanding what other people say
- Problems following directions
- Difficulty organizing their thoughts
Signs and Symptoms of Expressive Language Disorders
Children with an expressive language disorder have problems using language to express what they need or what they are thinking. These children may:
- Have a difficult time putting words together to create a sentence, or their sentences may be simple and short and the words may not be in order
- Have a hard time finding the right words when talking, and often use placeholder words such as “um”
- Have a vocabulary that is below the level of other children that are the same age
- Repeat certain phrases over and over again, and repeat (echo) parts or all of questions
- Have improper use of tenses (past, present, future)
- Leave words out of sentences when talking
Treating Speech Delays and Language Disorders
Early intervention is very important when a child has a speech or language problem. Speech and language therapy programs are the best approaches, and children may need psychological therapy, including psychotherapy, counseling, cognitive therapy and/or behavioral therapy due to the possibility of related emotional or behavioral problems.
If parents suspect a speech or language disability in their child, they should take their child to their pediatrician. Some pediatricians will refer the child to a speech/language pathologist right away, while others have a “wait and see” approach. An immediate referral for evaluation is always appropriate if parents suspect a speech or language disorder; research shows that most developmental disabilities are first recognized by parents.
Furthermore, the sooner a language or speech disorder is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. Early treatment may prevent the frustration and/or behavioral problems that often occur when a child has problems communicating. Parents should also make sure their child has a hearing screening or test performed since hearing problems may make it appear as though a child has a language or speech problem. If hearing loss or hearing problems are the only cause of delays in speech or language, a hearing aide or medical intervention for hearing may be all that is needed to correct the delay.
Speech Delay/Language Disorders and Disabilities: The Link to Birth Injury
A number of underlying conditions, injuries, and disabilities can cause speech delays and language disorders. Birth injuries can cause damage to parts of the brain involved in producing, understanding, and synthesizing speech and language. Birth injuries that can cause brain injury and resultant speech and language disabilities include:
- Birth asphyxia (the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen during or near the time of birth)
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE): Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy usually involves damage to the basal ganglia, cerebral cortex or watershed regions of the brain, but it sometimes includes periventricular leukomalacia (PVL).
- Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)
- Brain bleeds (extracranial and intracranial hemorrhages) such as a subdural hemorrhage, subgaleal hemorrhage and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH)
- Infection, sepsis, and/or meningitis
- Prolonged elevated bilirubin levels (prolonged and mismanaged jaundice) & kernicterus
- Neonatal hypoglycemia
Talking to a Birth Injury Attorney About Speech Delays and Language Disorders
If you or a loved one had a difficult or traumatic birth, and your child now has speech delays or a language disorder, it may be worthwhile to have a birth injury attorney look over your medical records to see if medical malpractice played a role in your child’s disabilities. The law offices of Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers focus only on birth injury. We’ve helped many families secure their children’s future. Please feel free to reach out to us if you’d like a second opinion about the events surrounding your child’s birth.