speech therapy session with a speech-language pathologist.

Building fluent speech communication for your child doesn’t happen by chance, it requires several occasions of word training, corrections, and tutorials. Speech therapy and language skills are developed differently for every child but there are general milestones that most children reach around the same age. For instance, by age one, many children can say simple words like “mama” or “dada.” By age two, they typically combine words to form simple sentences like “more juice” or “big truck.” As they grow, their vocabulary expands, and they begin to alter more complex sentences, understand and follow directions, and engage in back-and-forth conversations.

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy is a clinical program that improves speech language and oral motor abilities conducted by speech-language pathologists (SLPs), also known as speech therapists. These professionals assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. For children, speech therapy often involves playful and engaging activities designed to improve their communication skills in a fun and supportive environment. There are breakdowns of what to expect from your child from birth to a year old.

Birth to 3 Months:

  • Coos, gurgles, and makes pleasure sounds
  • Cries differently for different needs (e.g., hunger, discomfort)
  • Smiles when seeing a familiar face

4 to 6 Months:

  • Babble with a variety of sounds, including p, b, and m
  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Laughs and squeals

7 to 12 Months:

  • Babbling becomes more complex, often sounding like speech
  • Uses speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention
  • Says simple words like “mama” and “dada” by the end of the first year

Signs Your Child Needs Speech Therapy

Knowing the signs that might indicate a need for speech therapy can help you decide when to seek professional support. Let’s break down some common signs and symptoms to watch for. 

Delayed Speech or Language Development

If your child isn’t speaking by a certain age or is significantly behind their peers, this could be a sign of a delay. For example, most children say their first words by 12 months and start forming simple sentences by age two. If your child is not meeting these goals, it might be time to consult a speech therapist. A professional helps analyze the causes of diagnoses based on the assessments and then treats the diagnoses or addresses the needs. 

Difficulty Pronouncing Words

pronunciation issues are common in young children, but persistent difficulty can indicate a problem. If your child is hard to understand, even to familiar listeners, or if they frequently mispronounce sounds, it might be more than just typical developmental speech patterns. For example, if a three-year-old consistently substitutes “t” for “k” (saying “tat” instead of “cat”), it could be a sign of a speech sound disorder.

Trouble with Social Communication and Interaction

Social communication skills are prominent skills that children need to learn from a tender age either at home or in a school setting. If your child has trouble making eye contact, taking turns in conversation, or understanding social cues, these could be signs of a social communication disorder. This is especially important to monitor as it affects their ability to interact effectively with peers and adults. 

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy Quiz?

This quiz is a helpful tool to determine if your child might need further evaluation with your honest answers. This quiz is designed to be simple, using multiple-choice and yes/no questions to help you assess whether your child is meeting typical speech and language goals for their age.

This quiz is a helpful tool to determine if your child might need further evaluation with your honest answers. This quiz is designed to be simple, using multiple-choice and yes/no questions to help you assess whether your child is meeting typical speech and language goals for their age.

Question 1: Is your child easily understood by others (people outside the family)?

  • Yes
  • No

Most children’s speech should be understandable to strangers about 75% of the time. It might indicate speech sound disorder if others have difficulty understanding your child especially people outside the family. 

Question 2:  Does your child use correct grammar most of the time?

  • Yes
  • No

 By age five, children should use correct grammar in their sentences most of the time among their peers and immediate family.  Frequent grammatical errors could be a sign of a language disorder and an indicator that your child needs help.

Question 3: Can your child understand and follow multi-step instructions?

  • Yes
  • No

 School-aged children should be able to understand and follow multi-step instructions (e.g., “Get your book, read the first page, and then draw a picture about it”). If your son or daughter struggles with this, it could indicate a language comprehension issue.

How to Seek Professional Help

Pediatricians often work closely with Speech-language pathologists so ask your pediatrician for recommendations. Ensure the SLP is licensed and certified, in the United States, look for certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), indicated by the CCC-SLP (Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology) credential. This certification ensures the SLP has met rigorous professional standards. 

Websites like Healthgrades, Zocdoc, and even Google Reviews can provide insights from other parents about their experiences. Reading reviews can help you gauge the SLP’s expertise and approach.

Some SLPs specialize in specific areas such as autism, stuttering, or early language development. Ensure the SLP you choose has experience and expertise relevant to your child’s needs.

In conclusion, early intervention is key, and your proactive approach can significantly impact your child’s development. With these steps, you’re helping your child build the skills needed to communicate effectively and confidently. You’re not just addressing a potential issue, it is empowering your child for a brighter future. So, trust your instincts, seek the help you need, and know that you’re doing an incredible job supporting your child’s growth and development.

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