Pediatric clinicians are on the front line for prevention of language and speech disorders. This review uses prevailing theories and recent data to justify strategies for prevention, screening and detection, diagnosis, and treatment of language and speech disorders. Primary prevention rests on theories that language learning is an interaction between the child’s learning capacities and the language environment. Language learning occurs in a social context with active child engagement. Theories support parent education and public programs that increase children’s exposure to child-directed speech. Early detection of delays requires knowledge of language milestones and recognition of high-risk indicators for disorders. Male sex, bilingual environments, birth order, and chronic otitis media are not adequate explanations for significant delays in language or speech. Current guidelines recommend both general and autism-specific screening. Environmental and genetic factors contribute to primary language and speech disorders. Secondary and tertiary prevention requires early identification of children with language and speech disorders. Disorders may be found in association with chromosomal, genetic, neurologic, and other health conditions. Systematic reviews find that speech-language therapy, alone or in conjunction with other developmental services, is effective for many disorders. Speech-language interventions alter the environment and stimulate children’s targeted responding to improve their skills.

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