Signs That Your Child May Need Speech Therapy

Parents and guardians who have found their way to this post may be a little apprehensive. Searching the internet for indicators of whether pediatric speech therapy is right for your child reveals a slew of articles with “warning signs to watch out for.” These articles can add an element of hysteria to what may already be a stressful process of decision making. We may be biased here at Bliss Speech and Hearing Services, but in our view, speech and language therapy services are not something to be feared or embarrassed by…..Rather, our services can provide a valuable tool that can help build one of your child’s most important characteristics: their self-expression.

The sooner your child has been diagnosed, if pediatric speech therapy services are needed, the sooner you will be able to notice results, and the less difficulties they’ll encounter communicating and interacting with others. With that said, let’s look at some signs that speech therapy services may be the right choice for your child.

What age should a child begin pediatric speech therapy?

Oftentimes, as children get older, the need for speech therapy services becomes more apparent. There are clearer distinctions between what is considered “normal” and “abnormal” when it comes to speech in elementary, middle, and high school. But the early indicators for speech and language difficulties can begin making themselves known before a child is even three-months-old, and can continue through around three years of age.

“Zero to three-years-old?” you may be saying, “But every kid is different at those ages!” And you’re right. Every child develops differently, and what comes naturally to one child may not to another. However, there are certain milestones that serve as indications of whether a child is progressing in-line with developmental norms.

0 – 3 Months

Indicator: Child does not smile or interact with others

Obviously, not a whole lot is going on at this stage between sleeping and eating. However, during this period, a child should begin to smile and should react in some way to being spoken to. That reaction may simply be to go silent and stare in the direction of the speaker.

4 – 7 Months

Indicator: Child does not babble

Baby babbles sound like nothing more than nonsense sounds. While they’re far from approximating speech, children should be experimenting with their vocal chords at this stage. You might hear your baby saying: “bababa” or “dedede”.

7 – 12 Months

Indicator: Child makes very few sounds

Again, true recognizable language may be a ways off, but children should be noticeably “chattier” at this stage. Observing some other kids around the same age as your child can be helpful when trying to gauge the difference between “a few sounds” and “a lot of sounds.” But do yourself a favor and don’t get hung up on one comparison; some children leapfrog past these milestones. Taking a listen to a group of children, say in a class your child attends, is helpful.

Indicator: Child does not use gestures

Parents and guardians are often surprised to learn that speech therapy for kids goes beyond vocal language. As speech/language pathologists, we look at your child’s communication skills as a whole. Nonverbal language also exists. At this age, a child should using their hands in their interactions and playing around with waving or pointing.

7 – 24 Months

Indicator: Child does not understand what others are saying

Your child’s grasp of language goes beyond simply what they can say, and includes their understanding of the words spoken by others. While they may not be able to fully communicate their wants and needs at this stage, they should be gaining an understanding of the meaning of their parent or guardian’s words. It’s common for children to be able to respond to questions like “Do you want to go to sleep? or “Are you hungry?” even though they can’t put those sentences together on their own.

12 – 18 Months

Indicator: Child says no words, or very few words

At this stage, children are beginning to use language to meet their needs and to convey messages. Children typically speak their first words between 12 and 18 months of age, and begin to build their vocabulary skills from there. If your child hasn’t said their first word, or hasn’t gone much past that first word by 18 months, it’s something to take note of at this time.

12 – 24 Months

Indicator: Child has trouble with p, b, m, h, and w sounds, or uses primarily vowels

Some sounds are harder to make than others and require more mastery over speech. As children grow and develop, their ability to make these sounds develops as wells. As such, looking at these sounds can be a helpful way to gauge a child’s progress. If a child mispronounces the p, b, m, h, and w sounds most of the time at this stage, take note. If the child only uses vowels at this stage, it’s also important to take note.

21 – 24 Months

Indicator: Child does not put words together

As children continue their language development, they begin to put words together to help get their point across. Full sentences are still a ways off, but word combinations such as “me up” or “want juice” should have started to become parts of your child’s lexicon.

24 – 36 Months

Indicator: Child has trouble with k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds

This is the next group of sounds to look out for at this age. Frequent mispronunciations are an indication that speech therapy services may be necessary.

Indicator: Has trouble interacting with other children (i.e. talking, playing)

Your child’s interactions provide a reliable window into their speech and language development. Difficulties playing and talking with other children are often accepted simply as social anxieties. In many cases, these anxieties have their root in difficulties understanding other children or making themselves understood clearly.

Indicator: Child’s speech is difficult for others to understand

Children all have their own quirks when it comes to language, but their speech patterns should become recognizable as they get older, at least to those who interact with them most, such as parents and guardians. If you or others who interact frequently with your child are still finding it difficult to understand your child, it may be helpful to consult a child speech/language pathologist.

A First Step, Not a Last Resort

The list above is by no means exhaustive. And as parents and guardians, we have a tendency to have more questions after reading an article like this, not less. Waiting for a child to “outgrow” behavior x or y is often a surefire way to let a problem develop. It also does little to alleviate stress on your part. That’s why we strongly advise scheduling a speech and language evaluation with a trained speech/language pathologist as a first step, not a last resort. Either you’ll be told that your child is progressing typically, and you can stop obsessing, or you’ll learn that your child would benefit from speech therapy services…And in that case, guess what? You’re right where you need to be!

If you have any questions about your child’s speech and language development, and you live in or around Dallas, Texas, contact Bliss Speech and Hearing Services.

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