Whatever may be the reason for speech delay; following is the course of evaluation and management for speech delay.
1. Confirm hearing is not affected: It can be confirmed by a BERA test. Although clinically many people will be able to tell hearing is affected or not; the tests will help understand severity and level of hearing affection, whether in ear: outer ear canal or middle ear; or inner year or cochlea or nervous system. Test can at times be false; and may need repeat.
2.If hearing is affected; ear examination; ear cleaning and treatment of ear infection may be needed in cases of ear wax, otitis and adenoiditis. significantly affected /damaged ears with speech delay may need hearing aids. If the hearing is affected at cochlea or at Central nervous system the child may be considered for cochlear implant or devices like hearing aid.
3. Those cases who have no major hearing deficit; and good receptive speech and understanding of speech and have difficulty in talking; these kids will need to be started with speech therapy earliest for modulations of speech apparatus.
4. Children who hear but may not listen; children who may not understand or follow speech or have central speech affection or have difficulty having age appropriate eye contact and response to commands are often likely to be autism; in which only speech therapy may get a very slow or delayed response; unless the prime symptoms of autism are tackled with medicines and occupational therapy.
At our center, most kids establish eye contact and response to commands in 1-3 months
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