Developmental milestones are essential for both parents and children. Seeing them learn how to roll over, attempt the first crawl, and utter the first syllables are milestones to be cherished. That is why parents who look at checklists also find other ways to help aid their children’s growth, such as reading to their babies at an early age.
When they notice signs of delay, such as when a baby barely babbles even after turning a year old, well-meaning parents turn to developmental pediatricians, audiologists, and speech pathologists for help. Fortunately, there are many ways to help address these concerns, including speech therapy toys for toddlers and interventions like Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Picture Exchange Communication Systems.
Why Do Speech Milestones and Speech Therapy Matter?
Tracking milestones of normal speech development is crucial. For example, a child is anticipated to say one to two words at 12 months, 10 to 20 words at 18 months, and two to three-word sentences at 24 months.
However, some children will struggle to produce sounds over time, while others will have a hard time understanding others. Lastly, some kids will find it hard to express their thoughts.
These differences are due to language having two parts: language for reception and language for expression. Any delay merits a visit to health professionals.
How to Check for Signs That My Child Needs Speech Therapy
Below are some ways to check for signs that may mean your child needs speech therapy for kids. Know that it is not a cause for embarrassment nor guilt, but a silver lining, especially when detected early.
Here’s a caveat: There is a wide range of what is considered “normal”. Some children will start forming sentences early, while others take two to three years. While milestones matter, it is essential to remember not all delays are signs of serious concern.
Still, it pays to be observant, and it is always better to be safe than sorry when taking care of one’s child.
1. Pay Attention to How Sounds Are Produced and How They Make Meaning
In looking for speech delays, it is important to differentiate them from language delays. Speech delays do not involve nonverbal communication or comprehension. A toddler with this type of delay, then, will have difficulty in forming the correct sounds.
On the other hand, a language delay already involves both verbal and nonverbal communication. It is for communicating and understanding. Therefore, it is possible for a child to make the correct sounds but not make sense at all.
These delays can occur simultaneously, or only one condition will manifest. There might be a cause for alarm if a two-year-old toddler could still not use at least 25 words, and if, by age three, they still it hard to understand them.
This situation merits a visit to the doctor. Of course, at any age, not being able to say supposedly learned words is a red flag.
2. Observe if There Are Problems With Your Child’s Mouth or Hearing
Another possible cause of speech delays is palate, tongue, or mouth issues. This condition, known as ankyloglossia or tongue-tie, needs proper diagnosis and treatment.
Having this condition will make it difficult for any child to create specific sounds, in particular, the sounds of “Th”, “D”, “L”, “R”, “S”, “T”, and “Z”.
Another possible yet often overlooked cause for speech delay is hearing loss. A child’s hearing needs testing to check if there is a reason to suspect.
3. Note Other Behavioral Patterns That Can Also Signify Speech Delay
There are times when speech delays happen with noticeable behaviors. That includes not noticing certain sounds, not returning a smile, and not playing with others (or tuning others out).
It can also be alarming when a child can state numbers, lyrics from TV jingles, or the ABCs but cannot use words to express what is needed. Using words unusual for a given situation is also something that you should want to look into.
The Bottom Line
When dealing with speech delays, it is always best to consult with trained health professionals equipped with the right skills to evaluate and treat possible language or speech disorders. After all, speech and language problems may be caused by many other factors, including autism, neurological problems, or other conditions such as prematurity and environmental deprivation.
It also pays to support your child’s speech and language development on your own, such as talking to them right after birth, being responsive, singing to them, providing them with music, using gestures, and so countless other ways to teach the basic building blocks of communication.
Note, too, that the earlier one seeks help for one’s child, the better and higher chances of progress are likely. If your child is not a late bloomer at all, the attention and help sought would still not be a wasted effort.