How Do I Know If My Toddler Needs Speech Therapy?

Updated on July 11, 2021

Like physical milestones, speech and language milestones are some of the most exciting events we look forward to in our child’s young life. As parents, we experience joy when our little ones take their first steps or utter their first words.

However, what happens when our kids can’t talk or understand at the level we expect them to at a certain age? Do we consult a speech-language pathologist right away, or do we play the waiting game knowing there’s a good chance our children will eventually catch up?

Today we’ll find answers questions regarding speech problems and therapy. This way, you can make a decision that best meets your and your child’s unique situation.

A Closer Look at Speech and Language

To assess whether your child’s speech predicament calls for speech therapy means knowing the difference between the terms “language” and “speech”.

Speech has to do with how language is expressed verbally, including how sounds and words are formed. Language, on the other hand, deals with the skill of giving and receiving information. It relates to how you’re able to communicate verbally and nonverbally in a meaningful way and how well you understand what’s verbally and nonverbally communicated to you.

How Are Language and Speech Delays Different?

While speech and language issues differ, they often occur at the same time. For instance, a child with a language problem may not have an issue with speaking words, but they’ll barely be able to string two words together in a meaningful way. Similarly, a child with delayed speech might be able to express their thoughts and feelings verbally, but it would still be challenging to understand when they do.

How to Tell If Your Little One Has Speech or Language Delay

A doctor should definitely check children who are not cooing or babbling in their first few months of life. However, it’ll still be difficult to distinguish if there really is a problem or if your youngster is working on their own timeline.

Regardless, these are some of the speech milestones to watch out for:

  • One Year: Uses gestures, such as waving and pointing, copies sounds, and communicates by vocalizing.
  • One Year and Six Months: Prefers vocalizing over gesturing, imitates sounds effortlessly, and understands simple verbal requests.
  • 24 Months: Forms phrases and simple sentences spontaneously, uses words to communicate things aside from their basic needs, follows two-word instructions, and doesn’t adapt a nasal tone when speaking.

A professional should check children who haven’t met the specific milestones mentioned above. Similarly, parents experiencing the following speech issues with their child should get in touch with their doctor immediately:

  • Two Years Old: You understand less than 50 percent of what your child is saying.
  • Three Years Old: You can’t comprehend at least 75 percent of what your little one is talking about.
  • Four Years Old: Your child still can’t be understood by people outside of the immediate family.

Causes of Language or Speech Delays

Children can experience speech delays when they have:

Oral Impairment

Oral-motor problems can happen when there’s something wrong with the sections in the brain responsible for speech. These issues give kids a tough time coordinating the parts of their mouth to form sounds. Also, children going through these challenges usually have difficulty swallowing food.

Hearing Impairment

Similarly, hearing impairments negatively impact speech development. Since children with hearing problems will have trouble making out what’s being said to them, they will have a hard time understanding and imitating words. Thus, they will also have trouble using language to communicate.

Diagnosis of Language or Speech Delays

When you notice any sign of speech or language delay, have your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. You can find one by doing your research and asking your pediatrician for a recommendation.

Once you enter a speech-language pathologist’s clinic, expect the clinician to assess your child’s language and speech skills. They will perform standardized tests that include addressing language and speech milestones. They will also check how your child understands and communicates through spoken language, how clear their speech is, and the status of their oral motor skills.

Depending on the test results, speech-language therapy may be a treatment course for your little one. Through this method, your child will have a specifically-structured program to improve his or her speech and language skills. That includes a set of speech-enriching practices to be implemented at home. Feel free to check out some of these activities recommended by experts at the Speech and Sound Clinic.

Speech Therapy for Your Child

The best way to know if your child requires speech therapy is to have him or her evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. Sometimes signs of speech delay could mean that your child is simply operating on their own timetable and not necessarily needing the intervention of speech therapy.

Still, when you witness the signs, it’s important not to leave the situation all up to chance or statistical favor. You need to really take matters into your own hands and have a speech-language pathologist check on your child.

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