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Children develop at different rates and in varying areas. Some kids may struggle with speech, which can impact their ability to communicate effectively and learn in school. Speech therapy—also called speech-language pathology—is a service designed to help children who are struggling with speaking, listening, reading, writing, or learning phonics (the understanding of sounds and spelling).
If your child is experiencing issues with speech, you might wonder if they need speech therapy and if so, how soon. In some cases, these difficulties may be the result of a slight lisp or an impediment related to being born by cesarean section or having a cleft palate. However, if your child has issues learning new words quickly or frequently mispronounces words like “right” as “wight” or “tomato” as “mato” then they may require the services of a speech therapist.
The quiz at the top will help you evaluate if your child needs speech therapy or not.
Does my child need speech therapy: The symptoms and warning signs
A child with speech problems may have difficulty communicating with others and trouble getting their needs met. Some common signs of speech difficulty include:
- A child who speaks well for their age but has difficulty following directions or being organized. This may be a sign that the child is unable to retain what they’ve learned and apply it as needed.
- A child who frequently mispronounces words. This could be an indication that they don’t understand what sounds correspond with certain letters or words.
- A child who has a hard time learning new words. This could be the result of a speech impediment.
- A child who has difficulty asking for things. This could indicate that they are unable to communicate their needs to others.
- A child who uses a “baby talk” like language or a very limited vocabulary.
- A child with a speech impediment.
- A child who stutters when they speak.
How can I tell if my child needs to see a speech therapist?
A speech language pathologist is a professional who provides therapy services to children with speech issues. Every child is unique and will respond differently to different therapies. If you have noticed that your child has difficulty speaking or communicating, it is a good idea to get them assessed for possible speech issues. A speech pathologist will ask you questions about your child’s communication skills and developmental history. They may also observe your child’s speech and language skills. If your child is having difficulty communicating, it is a good idea to get them assessed for possible speech issues. Contact your child’s pediatrician to find a referral for speech language therapy.
When should my child start receiving speech therapy?
It depends on the severity and type of speech difficulty your child is experiencing. If it seems like your child is struggling with their ability to communicate, it’s a good idea to get them assessed by a speech pathologist. Some speech issues can be resolved with a few one-on-one sessions with a speech pathologist. However, if your child is experiencing speech issues that are atypical or impacting their ability to learn, then they may require ongoing speech therapy.
What happens during an evaluation for speech difficulties?
The speech pathologist will ask you questions about your child’s communication skills and developmental history. They will also ask you about your child’s interests, reading and writing skills, and what your child likes to do for fun. They will likely observe your child’s communication skills and may ask you to fill out a few questionnaires. Finally, they will ask you to provide information about the environment your child lives in at home. The speech pathologist will also likely ask your child to read out loud, spell a few words, and talk with them about their interests and likes and dislikes. The speech pathologist will also ask your child to complete a few activities that assess fine motor skills, listening skills, and reading comprehension.
Does my child need ongoing speech therapy?
Yes. If your child is experiencing speech difficulties, they will likely require speech therapy. Speech therapy for children is typically short-term and goal-oriented.
The type of therapy prescribed is based on your child’s unique needs and will likely vary from child to child. Some children may require speech therapy once a week whereas others may need it less frequently, depending on the severity of their speech difficulties.
Your speech pathologist will likely create an individualized treatment plan for your child, and they will let you know how many weekly sessions they recommend. Speech therapy can be challenging and frustrating, but it is worth it in the end. Try to remember that your child needs you to be positive and encouraging throughout the process. Be open to new techniques and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more you know, the less overwhelming speech therapy will be for everyone.
Every child develops at their own pace. Some kids may require speech therapy due to developmental issues, while others may just need some fine tuning. If your child has difficulty speaking, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Early intervention can make a huge difference for your child’s future communication and learning skills. It is important to note that not all speech therapists are trained in the same way. Some specialize in certain ages or stages of life, while others work with specific medical conditions. It’s important to find a therapist that is best suited for your child’s needs.