What Are Speech and Language?
Speech is the mechanical means of the oral motor mechanism to create sounds. Intelligible speech requires sufficient muscle tone for the lips, jaw, tongue and cheeks to work together as a team to produce functional verbal communication. Sometimes people use the word “articulation” for speech.
Language, on the other hand, is how the brain processes the information that it hears. Language can be receptive (understanding) or expressive (communicating). Receptive language allows a person to give meaning to what is heard. It is comprehension. It begins to develop in the first year of life in a typical child.
Expressive language is the ability to be able to share thoughts, ideas and feelings. It can be verbal (with sound) or non-verbal (with gestures, signing or use of technology). It generally does not begin to emerge until the second year of life.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Speech and Language
Lack of the emergence of speech and language is one of the first areas of concern for parents. Your pediatrician may tell you not to be so concerned, as all kids are different, or that boys talk later. He or she may also recommend a hearing test to rule out auditory problems.
If the child is over two, your doctor will usually suggest an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist, or at a communication disorders clinic, or refer you to your local early intervention services.
Another Way to Think About Speech and Language
Early intervention is imperative, but please know that a nonspeaking child very often has very good receptive language; they may understand everything that is said to them and around them but likely lack the fine-motor ability to speak. Nonspeakers can learn to communicate with assistive technology with their gross-motor skills using letterboards.
If you suspect a speech and language delay, the earlier you recognize that your child is not meeting developmental milestones and implement intervention strategies, the better the chances of more effective outcomes for your child.
The most important goal is to discover why a child lacks understanding of what is said or is not talking. Look at all possibilities. The answer is rarely one thing; it is usually a combination of some or all of the following:
- Biomedical issues
- Auditory issues
- Visual processing issues
- Primitive reflex integration issues
- Vestibular issues
- Structural issues
- Oral-motor issues
- Neurological damage, including a stroke
While a hearing deficit is an obvious reason for speech and language delays, very often, some underlying biomedical reasons that are not so obvious are at play.
Researchers have recently made great gains in the understanding of biomedical causes of speech and language issue, such as:
- Defects in detoxification pathways
- Nutritional deficiencies in the brain, especially folate (B9) and methyl B12
- Malabsorption of fatty acids (fats)
- Choline deficiency
- Vitamin E deficiency
- N-acetyl-cysteine deficiency
- Glutathione deficiency
- Fatty acid deficiency
Once underlying biological issues are addressed, speech and language may improve gradually, or could even emerge spontaneously. Other senses besides hearing can also impact upon speech and language.
The body’s vestibular system, which creates balance and equilibrium, plays a significant role. Children with vestibular dysfunction may have auditory and language processing problems.
Vision refers to the brain’s ability to process the information coming in through the eyes; acuity refers to the eyes’ ability to see well at a certain distance. Visual processing uses up most of the brain’s bandwidth, and having impaired vision can cause undue strain on other functions of the brain, including speech and language.
Therefore, once a child’s visual processing issues are corrected with vision therapy, his or her language may improve because the brain now has more capacity.
Speech and Language Healing Checklist
Have Your Child Evaluated for a Tongue Tie
Many children with a neurodevelopmental disorder often have tongue ties, which means that their tongues cannot move freely around their mouths, leading to problems with swallowing and verbalizing. A tongue tie is difficult to evaluate, and you may get different answers from different practitioners.
Find a practitioner who is adept at looking for tongue ties; one who works in conjunction with myofascial therapists and oral motor therapists is best.
Consider Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
If your child had a difficult birth resulting in insufficient oxygen to the brain or a negative reaction to routine childhood medical interventions, consider Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, which can increase oxygen levels in the brain. Because this type of therapy is also helpful for stroke victims, you may want to consider that your child may have had a stroke.
Consider a One-on-One Educational Program in the Home and at School
If you are home schooling, the Vince Carbone Clinic and CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) are good resources for you to check into.
- Get 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)
- Get outside every day
- Get an hour of exercise or movement per day
- Sync circadian rhythm by getting up when the sun does and going to bed after it sets
- Limit screen time as much as possible
- Use blue-blocking lightbulbs and glasses at night, especially when looking at screens
- Put bare feet in wet ground when possible
- Drink half body weight in ounces of water
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Eat a clean diet
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with artificial colors, artificial ingredients, artificial flavors, natural flavors, preservatives, phenols and salicylates
- Strictly limit sugars, refined salt and refined carbohydrates
- Consider implementing a low-glutamate diet and/or the Feingold diet
Use Only High-Quality Fats
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil (unheated)
- Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil
- Grass-fed ghee
- Duck fat
- Grass-fed beef tallow
- Cod liver oil (unheated)
- Walnut oil (unheated)
Remove Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils (Crisco, etc.)
Include High-Quality Protein with Every Meal
- Pasture-raised eggs, chicken and other fowl
- Grass-fed beef, lamb and other red meats
- Wild-caught fish
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Soy protein isolate
- Yeast extract
- Barley malt
- Natural flavors
- Artificial flavors
- Soy sauce
- Corn starch
Add Fermented Foods and Probiotics
- Eat kefir yogurts, if dairy is tolerated
- Eat fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kim chi
- Eat umeboshi plums, which are very alkalizing
- Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
- Take a quality probiotic, such as VSL #3, Gut Pro, Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics, Garden of Life, Klaire Labs. Work with your practitioner for a more targeted probiotic.
Blood sugar that is too low can lead to attention and behavioral problems.
We recommend keeping blood sugar optimized so that it's neither too low nor too high.
- Identify and remove possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
- Identify and remove possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products
- Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
- Remove carpets
- Use non-toxic cleaners
- Use non-toxic building materials
Lower Stress Levels
Viruses, bacteria and other pathogens become more active when the body is in a state of stress.
By teaching your child ways to self-regulate with practices such as prayer, reiki, meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi and the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), they can become good advocates for themselves and become active participants in the recovery process.
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for possible food sensitivities and allergies
- Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D
- NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs for malabsorption, gut dysbiosis, cellular energy, mitochondrial metabolism, neurotransmitter metabolism, vitamin deficiencies, toxin exposure and detoxification need
- Organic Acid Test (OAT) for yeast overgrowth, other microbial infections and oxalates
- Inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
- Fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
- Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)
Pathogenic infections and environmental offenders can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause neurological symptoms known collectively as PANS/PANDAS. However, not many practitioners know how to test for and treat these conditions. Common tests are:
- Serum Anti-Streptolysin O (ASO) titer
- Serum Anti-Streptococcal DNase B (ASDB) titer
- Cunningham panel
- Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections
- Specific viruses, especially herpetic viruses
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection
- Heavy metals and other toxins
Use Digestive Aids with your Practitioner's Guidance
- Betaine hydrochloric acid
- Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
- Proteolytic enzymes
- Cod liver oil
- Vitamin D3
- Methylated B complex vitamins
- GABA, especially PharmaGABA
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- Magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine and other minerals
- Make sure your child is pooping every day. Learn more about how to clear up constipation and diarrhea.
- Have your child exercise or move every day. Sweating carries toxins out of the body.
- See a homotoxicologist, naturopath or homeopath for drainage remedies and detoxification aids.
- Optimize blood sugar to allow the liver to spend more time detoxing rather than processing sugar.
- Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children.
- Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
- Epsom salt baths add sulfur transdermally to help with detox.
Children with developmental delays, cognitive issues and deficits have improper communication between the right and left sides of the brain.
Even if your child doesn't have ADD or ADHD, they may still benefit from neurofeedback.
Find a practitioner that can perform a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) brain map first so you can understand how your child's brain works.
An auditory therapist can devise a listening program that is specific to your child's needs. These programs can retrain the brain, calm down the nervous system and reduce sound sensitivities.
They provide hands-on helping with the practical matters of healing such as cooking healthy foods, removing toxins from the household and helping you work more efficiently with your practitioner.
NAET (Namudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.
Still Looking for Answers?
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Sources & References
Borre, Y.E., et al. Microbiota and neurodevelopmental windows: implications for brain disorders. Trends Mol Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):509-18.
Frye, R.E., et al. Folinic acid improves verbal communication in children with autism and language impairment: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Mol Psychiatry. 2018 Feb; 23(2): 247–256.
Gabis, L.V., et al. Improvement of Language in Children with Autism with Combined Donepezil and Choline Treatment. J Mol Neurosci. 2019 Oct;69(2):224-234.
Jadavji, N.M., et al. B-vitamin and choline supplementation increases neuroplasticity and recovery after stroke. Neurobiol Dis. 2017 Jul;103:89-100.
Morris, C.R., et al. Syndrome of allergy, apraxia, and malabsorption: characterization of a neurodevelopmental phenotype that responds to omega 3 and vitamin E supplementation. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Jul-Aug 2009;15(4):34-43.
Warner, B.B. The contribution of the gut microbiome to neurodevelopment and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pediatr Res. 2019 Jan;85(2):216-224.
Zaigham, M., et al. Prelabour caesarean section and neurodevelopmental outcome at 4 and 12 months of age: an observational study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020 (20)564.
Bronston, Berri. Devoted dad is partner in autistic graduate’s success. 22 May 2018, Tulane News.
Kedar, Ido. I Was Born Unable to Speak, and a Disputed Treatment Saved Me. 23 Sep 2018, Wall Street Journal.
Kedar, Ido. Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison. 2012, Sharon Kedar.
Mukhopadhyay, Soma. Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method. 2008, Outskirts Press.
Peña, Edlyn Vallejo. Leaders Around Me: Autobiographies of Autistics who Type, Point, and Spell to Communicate. 2019, independently published.