All kids grow differently.
Some start crawling at just 6 months of age, whereas others can take more than a year. Some even skip past the crawling phase and start walking soon after their first birthday.
Watching the unique growth patterns of a child is precious to every parent. But where things get tricky is when deciding between what’s normal and what calls for professional help.
If you’re worried about the speech and language ability of your child, but don’t know if speech therapy is the answer, this post has all the details you need to make an informed decision.
Keep reading to find out.
Speech vs Language Disorder
Before we proceed, let’s start with the difference between speech and language. This is an important distinction as it entails different challenges and solutions.
Speech refers to the sound we make when talking. Things like our articulation, voice characteristics, and fluency. Examples of a speech disorder include incorrect pronunciations, a hoarse voice, or stuttering.
Language refers to the giving and receiving of all information, whether that’s through speech, written words, or even gestures. Examples of a language disorder include troubles with putting words together or understanding directions.
Now, you might think that those challenges are faced by a lot of kids growing up and don’t necessarily identify a speech or language disorder— and you’d be right to think so.
However, most kids overcome those challenges by a certain age. By comparing the typical language and speech milestones with your child’s growth, you can tell if a professional evaluation is in order.
To help you do that, let’s look at the signs of speech and language disorders at different ages.
1. Signs of Language Disorder
You should see a speech-language pathologist if your child shows any of the following signs:
- Birth – 3 months: Does not smile or interact with others, including adults and kids.
- 4 – 7 months: Does not babble at all.
- 7 – 12 months: Makes a few sounds, but rarely uses any gestures. Examples include waving, pointing, and tapping.
- 7 months – 2 years: Does not understand what others are saying.
- 12 – 18 months: Says only a few words due to a limited vocabulary.
- 1.5 – 2 years: Does not put at least two words together and struggles to understand words.
- 2 – 3 years: Uses fewer than 50 words, doesn’t make sentences, and struggles to talk to other children. May also have problems with early reading and writing.
2. Signs of a Speech Disorder
As speech disorders fall under different categories, let’s look at the warning signs for the three most common ones:
Articulation problems are a struggle for every kid when growing up. For instance, it’s common to hear a child say wabbit instead of rabbit. However, you should consider a professional evaluation if your child is mispronouncing:
- The p, b, m, h, and w sounds by the age of 1-2 years
- The k, g, f, t, d, and n sounds by the age of 2-3 years
Stuttering is another speech problem most kids face when they start to talk. The vast majority of kids outgrow it with time. However, stuttering may not stop on its own if your child is over 2 years of age and still shows the following signs:
- Repeating the first sounds of words, like “c-c-c-a-t”—instead of “cat”
- Speaking slowly because of long pauses
- Getting visibly frustrated when trying to get the words out
- Stretching sounds out by saying “cccccat”—instead of “cat”
- Voice Disorders
Voice disorders include a hoarse, scratchy, breathy, or nasal voice. Other characteristics include a strained voice or even a complete loss of it.
Unlike articulation and stuttering, voice disorders are never normal and require a professional evaluation in most cases.
How Can a Speech Therapist Help?
The signs we’ve outlined so far are a good starting point. However, the only way to help a child with speech and language difficulties is by calling a licensed speech therapist for help.
These professionals are trained at diagnosing and treating all types of speech and language disorders. The therapist will always begin with a thorough evaluation to understand the specific symptoms and struggles of your child.
After a detailed discussion with yourself and the child and considering their medical history, the speech therapist will prepare a tailored program to help your child grow and improve as best as possible. This includes a mix of language intervention activities, articulation therapy, and oral-motor exercises.
Furthermore, the speech therapist will also guide you on what you can and should do at home to give your child the best chance of improving. To put it another way, the therapist will teach your child different sounds and words. Whereas you’ll be tasked with helping them practice those newfound sounds and words at home so everything becomes second nature in time.
How Can I Help My Child?
Apart from getting professional help and following the directions of your child’s speech therapist, there’s still a lot you can do to help your child improve their speech and language skills.
For instance, reading is one of the best ways to stimulate communication for your little one. Starting from colorful stories and moving up to small and memorable stories, you can read to a child as young as six months old.
Apart from that, you can also give your child exposure to rich language throughout the day by talking about where you’re going and what you’re doing. These daily descriptions can do wonders for their vocabulary, and as a result, their language skills.
Other educational yet fun activities include waving, clapping, rhyming, singing, and even watching TV together.
Above all else, however, you should get your child professional help as soon as possible. That’s because early intervention is the key to significant and lasting improvements.
If the speech therapist diagnoses a disorder, your child will get the best results by starting therapy early. And if your worries turn out to be for nothing, then that’s all the better. Get in touch with us today to find out for sure.