Children can have delays in understanding and expressing themselves for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes speech and language difficulties are a component of other conditions.
There are some things that are known to be risk factors in a child’s speech and language development such as recurrent ear infections, a family history of speech and language learning difficulties etc.
Delays and difficulties with speech and language can lead to problems with school, social skills as well as behavior issues due to frustration or anxiety at not being understood.
Sometimes it is not immediately clear whether a child has a speech or language delay/disorder alone or whether something else is happening that is contributing the child’s challenges. Depending on their age, children with speech and/or language delays many manifest these challenges differently. In general, children with speech-language delays or disorders may have some of the following characteristics:
The First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program provides information around early identification, prevention, screening, assessment and intervention for speech, language, stuttering, and voice therapy for children in Ottawa until they are eligible for senior kindergarten.
This website also provides Developmental checklists, screening clinic schedules, online booking, intake information, and general speech and language strategies.
The Hanen Centre in Toronto is a world- recognized leader in early speech, language and literacy intervention. There are excellent information sheets/ resources for families concerned with speech- language delay and autism.
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850-3289
Good hearing is crucial for children to develop clear speech, language, may have implications in reading development and in social interactions. It is a good idea to get a hearing assessment done if :
Be sure to ask your family doctor for a referral to an audiologist for a hearing assessment if you have concerns.
You may want to consider a complete eye exam to rule out a vision problem if your child:
No child would, if able to choose, would want to struggle with connecting with classmates and teachers. As Ross Greene stated in his book The Explosive Child, “Kids do well when they can.”
Many children enter into the school system looking like 4 and 5-year olds, but have social interaction skills of children much younger. This mismatch in development can lead to problems fitting in and making friends.
Some children have trouble figuring out or don’t take the time to read the social scene. Others are noticing what other children are doing, but don’t know how to include themselves. Here is a basic list of some of the ways social skill challenges can present themselves in children from 3 ½ to 7 years:
Difficulties with social skills can occur in young children because of something as simple as a need to be exposed to other children more. Sometimes social skills challenges can be related to other issues such as ADHD, Autism, Anxiety etc.
No matter what the source of the challenge skills that need more development can be identified, strengthened and difficulties lessened.
It is important to figure out with a professional and with the input of the important adults in your child’s life what interaction strengths your child may have, what do they need to develop and what next steps would be to build your child abilities.
If you have questions about whether there is an underlying issue that may be contributing to your child’s challenges with making and keeping friends and fitting in to their classroom community, click on the tabs below:
ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are a variety of subtypes of this. Sometimes the term ADD is used for kids who have attention difficulties but not the hyperactivity. Children are diagnosed with ADHD if they have enough challenges in this area across at least two environments (e.g., at home and at school).
Some possible signs that your child might have an attention deficit disorder include the following:
Having ADHD/ ADD can impact learning to make and keep friends in young children by:
If you think your child may have ADHD/ADD, here are some resources to explore for more information:
CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
Some excellent books for young kids where the main characters have ADHD/ADD (undiagnosed):
Autism spectrum disorder or ASD is a general term for a complex disorder with symptoms on a continuum of severity ranging from mild (previously referred to as Asperger’s syndrome) to more severe.
Everyone with ASD has difficulty in three broad, general areas:
Here are some specific ways these difficulties in social skills may be shown in a young child with autism:
If you have concerns that your child may be struggling with social connections due to autism, here are some resources to find out more and get support:
Autism Speaks Canada
2450 Victoria Park Avenue, Unit 120
Toronto, ON M2J 4A2
Sensory integration refers to how a person’s ability to perceive sensory information aligns with the sensations in the environment.
For example, someone with good sensory integration is able to tune in to useful visual, auditory, tactile and other input from the environment and tune out background sensations. (e.g. ignore the buzzing light while finishing their worksheet) Different people perceive sensory input differently.
A child dealing with sensory integration issues may be oversensitive (hypersensitive) to conditions such as noise, touch, sight, movement or under sensitive (hyposensitive) to some or all sensations or a combination of both.
Busy classrooms or daycares can be a nightmare for children with hypersensitivities. At young ages, classrooms often have a lot of children moving around and making a lot of noise. Not to mention other background sources of potential irritation such as buzzing fluorescent lights, sudden announcements made on the PA, recess bells, fire drills and scratchy tags on sweaters.
A child with these struggles may be so busy trying to deal with being bombarded with unpleasant sensations, they may be chronically irritated or distracted and simply not freed up to enjoy themselves with other children.
For hyposensitive kids needing extra sensations, the need to move, crash and make noise may cause classmates and teachers to react in annoyance.
Here are some examples of behaviors that may be due to sensory integration problems:
Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
5420 S. Quebec Street, Ste. 135
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
Some signs of an anxiety disorder include the following:
Selective mutism in young children might look like a child who talks a lot at home, but is silent around other people or in other environments. These children may not speak at all at school, may not even speak to relatives despite being chatty with their parents.
Young children experiencing significant anxiety in social situations may miss opportunities to experience all of the learning that happens with other children around developing social perspective taking in a variety of situations, learning to resolve conflicts, how to join in play and when to leave play etc.
Pre school and kindergarten years lay a foundation of social interaction and play skills that kids need to be part of to be equipped with social tools when interactions become more complex and subtle as they get older.
If you have concerns that your young child may have social anxiety here are some resources to explore:
Mood Disorders Association of Ontario
36 Eglinton Ave. West, Suite 602
Toronto, ON M4R 1A1
Books for young children where the main character leans toward an anxious disposition:
Non-verbal learning disability refers to children whose verbal skills are much stronger than their visual spatial abilities, social skills and motor skills. NVLD presents as all other challenges in that it is on a continuum meaning that features of NVLD may be mild or severe and impacted in one or more areas.
Socially, these children: