Speech and language are not the same thing, but are often confused as being synonymous. However, for our purpose, there is a clear distinction that must be made between the two. Language defines an entire system of sounds and symbols that people use to clearly express thoughts and ideas to one another. Speech is just one component of language, and includes the mechanical process – the articulation of sounds to produce words.
There are definitely differences between speech and language, however there is also frequent overlap. For example, a child with a language problem might be able to pronounce words properly, but might not be able to put more than two words together. Conversely, a child might not pronounce words well but can otherwise use words and phrases to express ideas. Other children yet, might be able to speak well, but fail to follow directions because they have issues with processing information. Speech problems therefore arise due to the mechanics of speaking. An example is substituting “w’s” for “r’s” such as “wabbit” for “rabbit.” How all this applies to signing has everything to do with the root issue of a child’s source of difficulty. As you see above, this means everything to how an issues might be tackled properly.
I can’t, nor can anyone else, diagnose a speech or language issue simply by describing various symptoms, only a professional can do this through various tests and observations. The above scenarios are meant to express general guidelines to help you along the path toward resolving an issue, perceived or real. If, after reading the above, you still have a hunch that something isn’t right with your child, then continue onto the milestones listed below. These stages will help you compare your child, generally, to other children. Keep in mind that there can be very broad differences between children at such a young age. If you notice though, that your child is lagging significantly behind his cohort, then this will be extra incentive to do more research.