Dr. Maryam Ibrahim-Maifada, a speech therapist, has recommended parents to develop the habit of “talking to their infants” and “reading stories” to them in order to prevent speech difficulties.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Kaduna, Ibrahim-Maifada of the National Ear Care Center, Kaduna, gave the suggestion.

She said infants learned speech by listening, and parents act as first teachers for their children.

According to her, speech disorder is a condition in which a person has problems creating or forming the speech sounds needed to communicate with others, and can make the child’s speech difficult to understand.

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She listed common speech disorders to include:

  • articulation disorder
  • phonology disorder
  • disfluency disorder
  • voice disorder
  • apraxia and dysarthria of speech

She advised parents to ‘encourage’ their children to speak more and not ‘force’ it on them.

“Speech is one of the main ways in which we communicate with those around us; it develops naturally along with other signs of normal growth and development.“Disorders of speech and language are common in pre-school age children,” she said.

She listed causes of speech disorder in children to include hearing loss, problems or changes in the structure or shape of the muscles and bones used to make speech sounds – cleft palate and tooth problems.

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She also listed other causes to include damage to parts of the brain or the nerves, such as cerebral palsy that controls how the muscles work together to create speech, cancer of the throat, as well as brain damage due to stroke(Apraxia).

The therapist gave other causes as autism, dementia and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, down syndrome and a family history of speech disorder.

She, therefore, advised;

  • Parents to be vigilant as they nurtured their children.
  • If you notice any speech development delay, consult a specialist at the earliest possible time.
  • Baby by 9 months should be able to call ‘mama, dada’
  • The baby’s speech should be understandable by age three to four.
  • If you feel your baby is having hearing problems or low intelligence, consult a doctor by seeking early treatment for a better prognosis
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