DOES MY CHILD NEED SPEECH THERAPY?

In my practice as a Speech Therapist, both in the private and public sectors, I have come across an alarming number of parents/caregivers who have elected to “wait to see” if their child’s speech and language development will eventually “catch up” on its own. They do this for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is because someone else – someone who does NOT specialize in children’s speech and language development – suggested it. Unfortunately, this advice comes all too often from well-meaning relatives, friends, educators and/or doctors.

It is a fact that some children do catch up on their own. These children tend to have things going on that makes this more likely, such as intact hearing and age-appropriate understanding and social skills. But catching up is never certain, regardless of the variables that would make it more likely.

Speech and Language development can be so varied and there are so many elements included (speech sounds, comprehension, attention and listening skills, vocabulary, sentence structure, social skills....).

As a parent, you may have a niggling concern about your child's language development and can't quite put your finger on what exactly it is.  Or perhaps someone else is concerned and you don't understand why.  Either way, at the very least an initial assessment with a Speech Therapist can be really useful to clarify if there is reason for your concern or not. Knowing what is and isn't normal when it comes to language and speech development is extremely important, so we've broken down five important red flags to look out for. 

Here, some signs your child might need an evaluation with a Speech Therapist. 

1. Your child doesn't interact or play socially

If your baby isn't smiling or interacting with others from infancy to 3 months of age, it could be a red flag for a speech or language disorder. Other early social interaction signs to look out for:

  • Your infant doesn't babble (between 4 and 7 months).
  • Your baby makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (between 7 and 12 months).
  • Your infant doesn't seem to understand what you or others are saying (between 7 months and 2 years old).

2. Your child makes only a few sounds, words, or gestures (12 to 18 months). 

Most kids are starting to say a few single words between a year and 18 months. Between 1 1/2 and 2, they're typically putting words together. If your child isn't saying anything, or has an extremely limited repertoire of words, he or she may have a speech disorder.

3. You (and others) can't understand what your child is saying (18 months to 2 years). It isn't uncommon for mums and dads to be the only people who understand what their toddler is saying, but between 18 months and 2 years, parents shouldn't have too much difficulty deciphering what their child is saying. By age two years, speech should be clear to familiar listeners.

4. Your child hasnt started to combine two or more words together (by age 2 years). 

Usually, children begin combining two or more words together to make "sentences" at about 18 months: "My ball." "Come Mama." If between the ages of 1 1/2 and 3, children aren't pairing two or more words with one another, parents may want to consult a Speech Therapist

5. Your child struggles to say some sounds or words (2.5 years to 4 years). 

Some sounds are harder to pronounce than others. For instance, a "K" or a "G" sound doesn't roll off the tongue for an 18-month-old (or even some 2-year-olds). Easier sounds, like 'P,' 'B,' and 'M,' shouldn't be a problem for children after the age of 2. If your 2 1/2-year-old is still having trouble with "easier" sounds, or your 3- to 4-year-old is having trouble with "harder" sounds, you should seek professional advice.

Early intervention is highly supported by research so be sure to see the advise of a Speech Therapist sooner rather than later! The biggest risk of a “wait and see” approach is the loss of opportunity for enrichment during the critical early period of brain development. This is the best time for parents of children with speech and language delays to be seen by a Speech & Language Therapist and to be educated on the best ways to help their children develop language skills. Gaps in children’s skills grow quickly, especially during this time of rapid development. If you are concerned about any aspect of your child's speech and language development.

At GIANT LEAPS Speech Therapy advice is always free! If you are concerned about any aspect of your child's speech and language development TALK TO US today. 


AUTHOR - Anna Keno, Speech-Language Therapist (BSLT, MNZSTA) GIANT LEAPS Speech Company

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Posted: Friday 13 May 2016