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Can a Child Have Speech Delay and Not Be Autistic?

Posted by on July 10, 2020 in Stuff with 0 Comments

While children with autism can experience speech delays, even those children without autism can have delayed speech. A toddler can have speech delays rooted in hearing impairments, mouth problems, lack of stimulation, and many other issues outside of autism.

However, autistic speech delays are more a cause for concern than others. After all, in this scenario, your child may develop other issues as well.

Autistic Speech Delays vs. Delays Caused by Other Issues

A child as young as two months old already knows that the key to getting his parents to do his bidding is communication. The incessant cooing, babbling, and crying tell you that your baby wants something and to get it right away. They could also point, pull on your sleeves, and make eye contact to get their point across.

Typical children eventually graduate from these methods and apply spoken language to get the results they want. Furthermore, they are also motivated by hugs and smiles, imitate what’s being said to them, observe people in their surroundings, and get bored easily when left to their own devices.

However, the same cannot be said for kids with autism. These youngsters experience social communication issues that stand in the way of normal speech development and, consequently, any meaningful social interaction. While the quality of social connections varies across the spectrum of autism, with those having high-functioning autism capable of creating more fulfilling interactions, the same challenges hold true for the majority of autistic children.

As a result, instead of social responses, it’s self-interest that drives and motivates these individuals. They are also unlikely to imitate another’s actions, consider objects more fascinating than people, and are perfectly fine with being left alone by their parents or nannies. It’s these differences that shape the outcomes, desires, and behaviors experienced by children with autism.

Painting a Clear Picture of Autistic Speech Delay

It’s fairly easy to spot the difference between speech delays caused by autism and those born from other problems. In the first instance, we’ll be discussing delayed speech rooted in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, in the second, speech delay resulting from other issues.

Scenario 1

Emma is two years of age. She uses words, but not for communication. Instead, she keeps saying them again and again to herself. Whether through verbal or non-verbal communication, Emma doesn’t know how to ask for something she wants. She also has a very limited attention span and would rather observe objects than interact with her parents.

Scenario 2

Like Emma, Sam is two years old. She may not talk, but she’s using gestures and sounds to communicate. She pulls on her parents’ sleeves, points to an object, and makes eye contact to get what she wants. She also loves interacting with her parents, siblings, and friends and doesn’t like it when she’s left alone.

While it’s true that Emma uses some form of speech, her inability to use her words to communicate, as well as her aversion to social interactions, means she’s exhibiting early symptoms of autism.

Sam, on the other hand, may have a speech delay that requires intervention. However, it’s clear from her desire to connect with other people that her condition does not stem from autism. Among the possible challenges she could be going through are cognitive challenges, hearing impairment, and apraxia of speech.

Signs That Speech Delays Stem from Autism

Late speech is just one of the many communication-related signs that your little one could have autism. Here are some of the other major indications to look out for:

1. Slow Responses

This pertains to a child that is slow or fails to answer to his name and doesn’t respond to other attempts to capture his attention through the spoken language.

2. Slow Gestures

This is when a toddler either points to something really slowly or fails to gesture at it at all, making it difficult for the adults around him to know what he wants.

3. Stops Cooing and Babbling

There may be cause for concern when a baby who makes incessant cooing and babbling sounds during his first year stops once he passes 12 months.

4. Delayed Language

You should also watch out for youngsters who develop verbal and non-verbal language at a later age. It may also be that their progression isn’t as quick as a typical child’s.

5. Repeats Words and Phrases

A child may have autism if he tends to speak in single words and repeats phrases constantly. He also has incredible difficulty combining words to form comprehensible sentences.


Differences and delays in speech are among the hallmarks of autism. Even individuals who develop speech at a normal rate in their first few years of life may still find it challenging to speak words effectively as they grow older.

Autism-rooted speech delays are marked by differing vocal patterns, difficulty in connecting with people through verbal and non-verbal language, and constant repetition of sounds as a manner of self-stimulation.

Speech delays don’t automatically mean your child is autistic. However, if you aren’t quite sure what to make of the situation, have your child evaluated as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: Content from the website and blog is not intended to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and is NOT intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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