One of the most treasured moments of parenthood is hearing a child say “mama” or “dada” for the first time. Parents presume language development will take off from that special point and continue, but that is not always the case.
While children can have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings in the early stages of speech development, if a parent suspects a speech or language delay, they shouldn’t second guess themselves.
“Parents are our first and best line of defense when it comes to identifying speech language delays,” says Michelle Morrison, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist and executive director of Sertoma Speech& Hearing Center. “As a parent, you should absolutely trust your gut instincts. You know your child better than anybody else.”
Parents who have a concern about a toddler not expressing wants and needs at age appropriate level should consult with their pediatrician and ask for a referral or an order to see a speech/language pathologist.
She says a speech/language pathologist will conduct a full evaluation for children under age 3 and either an evaluation or screening for an older child. This evaluation will allow the speech-language pathologist to assess sound production, language comprehension (understanding), language expression (use) and pragmatic language (social) using play-based interactions and parent interview.
While some parents and even doctors think a child will grow out of speech-language delays, Morrison says, “If there’s any suspicion at all of a problem or delay, an evaluation cannot hurt. If anything, it provides a baseline of where that child is functioning right now and then you’ll know how to plan and move forward for the child.”
Early identification of a problem is important. Children will eventually be assessed when entering either preschool or kindergarten but it is possible the child will be behind because speech is the precursor to learning to read.
“One of the reasons we want a child to speak early on is so they will be academically successful,” Morrison says. “Parents who are not prepared to seek intervention early on should remain in contact with their pediatrician so the physician can monitor the child’s development and make recommendations that will benefit the child. Parents should utilize all the tools they have available to them in order to make the decisions that are best for their child.”
Click here for one of those tools, Sertoma’s ebook series, “What Every Mom Needs to Know About…Speech and Hearing Development of Her Child.”