Fort Worth, Texas,
14:20 PM

Does my child need speech therapy?

A speech pathologist discusses a child's language development

Learning to talk is miraculous!

We love to hear the first sweet sounds from newborn babies when we feed them and cuddle with them. Then they quickly progress to happy babbling and, at last, WORDS! All within a fast moving, short 12 months. Somewhere between the ages of 3 and 4 years old, a parent may say, “My child has so many words; I couldn’t possibly count them!” Then, babies progress to speaking sentences, having conversations, and using their words for imaginative play. Of course, there are also the fun word skills they learn when they enter the amazing world of reading.

This describes typical, fantastical language development ... BUT what if things are not typical? What if there are concerns? What can the parent expect? When should a parent seek help and from whom?

Some concerns may include:

1. Little or no babbling. Well-formed babbling should be in place by 10 months of age at the latest. Vowel sounds, e.g., ah, oo, ee, etc., are used first, and then they will start pairing consonants with vowels to make syllables like, “ba-ba-ba-go-da-tee” and more.

2. Slow in saying first words (after 12 months)

3. Vocabulary count is low. (See my previous blog on Is my child's speech 'normal?' )

4. Significant drooling beyond 18 months of age.

5. Difficulty understanding what your child says or you are one of the few people that can understand what he or she says.

6. Not speaking in 2 -3 word combinations by 24 months of age, e.g, “I fishing;” “My toys;” etc.

7. Child acts frustrated by difficulties with his or her own communication skills.

8. Child overuses gestures to communicate his or her wants and needs.

9. Poor eye gaze to the speaker’s face.

10. Lack of variety of play skills.

11. Lack of interest in engaging others in play.

Who can help a parent sort out these concerns?

Talk with your pediatrician and ask for referral to a speech/language pathologist for an evaluation if you have concerns. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is educated and trained to evaluate and treat communication problems from birth through to adulthood. A speech/language evaluation will identify your child’s communication strengths and challenges, and a plan of care will be recommended, if necessary. You, as the parent, will want to see a SLP who is experienced with children.

Speech/language therapy can be provided in a number of different settings - therapy provided in a clinic setting is primarily on an individual basis: one child – one therapist. Therapy provided in the public schools is typically in a group setting. Different settings and models of care can be selected based on your child’s and family’s needs. Participating with your child in therapy is an important part of care and will help maximize your child’s progress.

We all want our children to develop skills with ease. Remember, when that development is on a continuum and there is a range of typical development. However, if there is a concern, ask your doctor for a referral to see an SLP. By identifying potential challenges early and obtaining intervention such as speech/language therapy, the outlook is definitely brighter. Early identification and intervention are key.

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