Recognizing Early Signs: Identifying Speech Delay in Children with Autism In Toronto

At Monarch House’s Toronto autism clinic one of the main things we do is assessment. This often starts with the way a child speaks.  Speech development is a significant step in a child’s early years, and for children with autism, looking for potential speech delays is crucial for early intervention. 

Let’s look at ten early warning signs that may indicate speech delay in children with autism. Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to offer timely support.

1. Not Much Babbling
If your child is too quiet this can be an early warning sign—even with nonsense words. Children typically engage in babbling by a certain age. A lack of babbling or limited vocalizations may be an early indication of speech delay in children with autism.

2. First Words Have A Delayed Onset

A child’s first words usually formulate around their first birthday. The absence of first words by the age of 12 to 16 months could be a red flag. Children with autism may show delays in initiating speech compared to their typically developing peers.

3. Lack of Response to Their Own Name

Once hearing impairment is ruled out, limited responsiveness to the child’s name being called may suggest he or she is facing a communication challenge. Children with autism may not consistently respond to verbal cues, a potential sign of speech delay.

4. Not A Lot of Eye Contact

Does your child look you in the eye when you speak? Difficulty establishing and maintaining eye contact can be an early indicator of social communication challenges, including potential speech delay, in children with autism in Toronto. Also, at Monarch House, we look for a lack of social referencing (looking at other people’s reactions to know how to respond to a situation).

5. Lack Of Interest In Communication
Children at a young age will go out of their way to communicate with their parents. If this is not seen at an early age it could be a warning sign for neurodivergence in the child. A disinterest in engaging in communicative activities, such as pointing, sharing, or showing objects, may signal challenges in speech development for children with autism.

6. Repetitive or Echolalic Speech
Does your child often repeat themselves or reiterate certain words? Children with autism may exhibit repetitive or echolalic speech patterns, repeating words or phrases without clear communicative intent. This can be an early warning sign of speech delay.

7. Difficulty with Pronouns and Verb Tenses

Pay close attention to your child’s grammar. Speech delays in children with autism may manifest in challenges with pronouns (e.g., using “I,” “you”) and verb tenses, impacting the grammatical aspects of their speech.

8. Limited Vocabulary Expansion

There can be a lack of interest in finding new words, and new ways of expressing themselves. While children typically expand their vocabulary rapidly, children with autism may exhibit slower vocabulary growth. Limited word acquisition or a lack of progression could indicate speech delay.

9. Preference for Non-Verbal Communication
Does your child gravitate towards pointing and signing over speaking? Children with autism might prefer non-verbal communication methods, such as gestures, over verbal communication. This preference may suggest early signs of speech delay. Another warning sign, however, is a limited use of gestures, such as pointing or raising their arms to be picked up.

10. Difficulty with Social Interactions
It can be hard for neurodivergent children to build new relationships and make friends because of limited communications. Speech delay in children with autism can also manifest in challenges related to social interactions. Difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations may be observed in early stages.

These concerns, addressed early on, can be addressed by our trained staff at Monarch House and provided with timely solutions. Recognizing early warning signs of speech delay in children with autism is pivotal for proper intervention and support. Parents and caregivers who observe these signs should seek guidance from healthcare professionals and specialists at Monarch House to ensure appropriate interventions are in place. We can help promote optimal speech development in the early years. Early identification and intervention lay the foundation for improved communication outcomes for children on the autism spectrum.