Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center
General Terms and Definitions
A language delay/disorder occurs when a person is unable to acquire the rules of our language.  Individuals with a language disorder can have difficulty in a variety of areas.  Some have difficulty understanding what others say.  Some have difficulty expressing their own ideas, feelings, or needs.  They may also have difficulty with reading and writing.
A speech delay/disorder occurs when a person has difficulty making the appropriate speech sounds and using sounds correctly in words.  They may substitute an incorrect sound for the target sound, omit the target sound, produce the target sound incorrectly, or add additional sounds to the word.  Sometimes a person with a speech disorder only uses a few sounds instead of using all the sounds found in our language.  They are often hard to understand and young children may become frustrated when other children or adults cannot understand their message.
A delay occurs when a child follows the same developmental patterns as typically developing children, however they develop their speech and language skills at a slower rate.
A disorder occurs when a child develops slower than typically developing children and their patterns of development deviate from the typical acquisition patterns for speech and language development.
Many times an individual will have difficulties with both speech and language use.  Approximately 75-80% of children with a speech disorder also have a language disorder. 
A speech-language pathologist can help by identifying problematic areas, analyzing how the communication breakdown occurs, and providing education and treatment to facilitate better communication.