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Did you know that over 7 percent of children in the United States have some type of speech delay? In this lesson, you’ll learn more about the different types of speech delays from examples.


Suppose that you are a second grade teacher in an elementary school.

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You notice that Sam, one of your students, speaks differently than the other children in the classroom. Other students appear to have a hard time understanding Sam’s speech. You also notice that Sam is easily frustrated whenever he has to do a task that involves talking to others.

Based on this information, you conclude that Sam may be suffering from a speech delay.A speech delay refers to when a child does not develop speech capabilities within the normal age range. Children with speech delays may reach all other developmental milestones as expected, but their speech skills may be several months behind their same-aged peers.

Types of Speech Delays

There are two types of speech delays:

  • Expressive delays
  • Receptive delays

It is possible for a child with a speech delay to have an expressive delay, receptive delay, or a mixed expressive and receptive delay. Children with expressive delays have trouble producing speech sounds.

In other words, their ability to use words to communicate with others is impaired. Children with expressive delays are able to understand language but have difficulty expressing language.Examples of children with expressive delays include:

  • 1-year-old that cannot say at least three words
  • 18-month-old that cannot say at least fifteen words
  • 2-year-old that cannot yet say ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’
  • 4-year-old that is hard to understand by close family members
  • 5-year-old that cannot form 2-3 word sentences
  • 9-year-old that leaves words out of sentences, for example says things such as ‘I read’ instead of ‘I can read’
  • 10-year-old that is unable to join sentences using conjunctions, for example ‘and’ or ‘but’

Children with receptive delays can produce speech sounds. However, they have trouble understanding what is being said to them.

In other words, they have trouble receiving language.Examples of children with receptive delays include:

  • 3-year-old that is unable to follow simple directions and command
  • 4-year-old that is unable to point to familiar objects when asked
  • 5-year-old that repeats a question when one is asked rather than answering the question
  • 18-month-old that does not respond to being told ‘no’
  • 3-year-old that cannot identify a picture of an object when named
  • 8-year-old that has difficulty following verbal classroom instructions


There are many causes of speech delays. These can include structural impairments, either in the mouth, like a cleft palate, or in the ear, like hearing impairment. Both of these can cause difficulty with imitating sounds.

Some children have learning disabilities that cause speech issues, such as mental retardation, auditory processing disorder, or pervasive developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder and Rett’s syndrome.Sometimes, children that are isolated from other people or not allowed the opportunity to socialize with others, may develop speech delays. Finally, brain injury or nerve damage in the areas that control speech can also cause speech problems.

Knowing the cause of a speech delay is often an important part of knowing how to treat the condition.

Lesson Summary

Millions of children in the United States suffer from speech delays. Children with expressive delays have difficulty communicating verbal information, while children with receptive delays have trouble understanding verbal information.An example of a child with an expressive delay is a 4-year-old that has a vocabulary of words that is significantly less than those of his or her same-aged peers. An example of a receptive delay is a 10-year-old that is unable to understand complicated sentences. There are a variety of physical, developmental, and neurological conditions that contribute to speech delays.

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