Speech & Language Disorders Community
can my daughter learn to speak?
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This patient support community is for discussions relating to Speech and Language Disorders. Topics include, but are not limited to: Aphasia, Apraxia, Autism and Communication, Developmental Dyspraxia, Motor Speech Disorder, Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders, Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM), Tongue-Tie (Ankyloglossia), Voice Disorders

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can my daughter learn to speak?

My 4 year old, adopted from China, suffered from some severe malnutrition and possibly a serious illness (it was reported to us that she had long-term fevers, maybe anemia). She is diagnosed with global developmental delay and her teachers believe she has apraxia as well.  Neurological and genetic tests came back normal.  She says a few words - very sporatic.  She has been getting OT, PT, and speech therapy since she came home, at 22 months.  Her fine and gross motor skills are still quite delayed, but she makes steady progress.  She went from being unable to hold her head up or sit up at 22 months to walking by 2 and a half.  She can now jump, run, hold a crayon, etc., but still cannot use utensils effectively and is still in diapers.  Socially, she is much less mature than her peers (who, at her school, mostly have special needs as well).  Her behavior has been described as "spectrum-y", but those who know her well and work with her feel she is too socially responsive to be autistic.  Can a child who cannot speak at age 4 have any hope of developing functional speech or is the writing on the wall?  Does global developmental delay typically mean a future of mental retardation?  I sometimes wonder if all of the kind professionals we work with are afraid to give us the truth.
Thanks so much!
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When you have a special needs child it is very hard to get a prognosis simply because they are all unique, even if they have the same diagnosis.  A typical child can be assessed on a percentile, and throughout their development and growth they usually stay on that percentile.  A special needs child develops differently because of the difficulties they have and if they don't achieve some basic developmental milestones that will have a knock on effect with higher functions eg. you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.  
As you are so concerned speak with the professionals who are working with her and ask them if they think she will use language to communicate.  
My own father was developmentally delayed, yet he suddenly caught up from the age of 20+ and went from a 14 year old who could only write his own name, to a man who managed an Engineering department and was the main trouble shooter sent all over the country.  I also have a sister with developmental delays and she has never caught up, however she has a job and lives independently.  I also have a son on the autistic spectrum and he's doing quite well, but has yet to learn to read and write.  So I'm afraid there are no answers.  I think you just have to work with what you have got, and watch for new skills emerging.
I presume a Speech and Language Therapist is working with your daughter?  Do you use other communication aids, such as symbols to encourage her to communicate?
I would also speak with the Physiotherapist to ask them about what kinds of movements are good for brain development.  For example crawling is very good - so you could buy those fabric tubes for her to play and crawl through.  Swimming is also very good.  But the physio should be able to give you more information about that.
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