May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. This month is a time to shine the light on speech language pathology!
What exactly is a speech language pathologist? A speech language pathologist, a.k.a. speech therapist or SLP for short, is a trained professional who aids in helping others communicate. They work across the ages from birth until death. Areas of expertise include: receptive and expressive language, social skills, and feeding. It is a truly exciting field filled with many opportunities and avenues for growth. This blog is going to focus on children and when to know: Does my child need a speech therapist?
A huge sector of speech therapists work with children to help them communicate more effectively.
- Your child is not saying words or following simple directions.
By 6 months, babbling should be in full swing. Your baby is playing with sounds and starts to create simple combinations such as ‘mama’ ‘dada’ or ‘baba’. (It should be noted, these sounds are made without meaning, your baby is just playing with sounds, not labeling people) By 8 or 9 months, your child is beginning to understand language and can even participate in simple directions. For example: parent says “let’s put your shoes on” prompting your child to lift their foot. If your child is not babbling by 8 months, speak to your pediatrician to determine if a speech and language evaluation is needed.
2. Your toddler gets frustrated when not being understood.
Now, don’t get me wrong, toddlers (ages 2-4) get frustrated. A lot. When I say frustration, I am not talking about your typical toddler frustration like not being allowed to wear a snowsuit to swim or brush the dog with your toothbrush. The frustration I am talking about is frustration over not being understood. Your child may bite you or others out of frustration. Biting is actually very typical behavior of a child with a speech delay. They are unable to communicate with words, so they use nonverbal communication.
If your toddler is old enough to pull you to the pantry and point to what they want, they are old enough to tell you what they want. Even if they are using pseudowords or word approximations; Pseudowords and approximations are first words that your toddler uses that are not ‘perfect’ but are used consistently. If you are relying on your toddler to point to get their wants/needs met, this is a clear sign that they may have delay.
There is strong evidence that early intervention works. If you are concerned, get an evaluation. The worst that could happen is that you will have a clear idea on your child’s speech and language skills. How awesome is that?
3. Your school- aged child is not intelligible at least 90% of the time.
By the time your child is in kindergarten, unfamiliar adults should be able to understand them 90% of the time and sentence structure should be at least 4-5 words in length. Speech sounds occur within developmental continuum and in ranges (see chart below). Speech sound development is important due to its affect on reading. If a child is not saying a particular sound, they will have increased difficulty with letter to sound association.
Again, when in doubt, talk to your local speech therapist. Agencies work with children from birth to school aged. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email us here at The Nurture Notebook.