Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Parents watch their children develop so many skills during the first few years of their lives – everything from crawling, sitting and walking, to discovering new foods, exploring toys and socialising with others, as well as developing communication skills.

Communication skills are a huge part of a child’s development during the first few years. Children acquire their skills in speech sounds, receptive language (understanding language) and expressive language (using language) at different ages – these are known as ‘Communication Milestones’. When children start to struggle with meeting these communication milestones, it can be time to reach out to a speech pathologist for further advice.

“Does my child need speech therapy?” is a question that many dedicated parents ask themselves. Maybe your child is now at preschool or daycare or, perhaps they are in their first year of school. Whatever the situation, these moments often prompt families to think about how they can best support their children to thrive in educational settings.

But as a parent, how do you know if what you are observing in your child is considered ‘typical’ or a cause for concern? Let’s dive into the common indicators that suggest it might be time to seek advice and support from a Speech Pathologist.

1. Your child’s speech and language skills are regressing:

Language regression in toddlers and children refers to your child ‘losing’ some of the skills they had previously displayed. For example, your child may be babbling and then start to become very quiet; they may be producing several words and then revert back to producing only one or two. Whilst short-lived language regressing can be part of your child’s typical development, particularly during busy times (such as moving house, mastering new skills such as walking or starting daycare), if you notice your child’s language skills are regressing for more than three months, it is time to seek a speech pathologist for further advice.

2. Your child’s speech is difficult to understand:

Children acquire their speech sounds at different ages, all the way from the toddler years up until ages 7-8. In the early years, children will simplify their speech as they are learning to talk. However, if your child is difficult to understand, they may need support from a speech pathologist to help them acquire age-appropriate speech sounds.

3. Your child struggles to follow instructions:

Following directions in childhood can be quite a complex task! When you ask your child to carry out an instruction, this requires your child to firstly listen to a direction, then understand the language, hold the instruction in their memory, understand what they need to know and then be willing to do it. If you notice that your child is having difficulty following directions, either at home or at school, this can be an indication that they have difficulty understanding language or have difficulties with memory or attention skills. A speech pathologist can help by assessing your child’s receptive language (their understanding of language) to see if there are underlying reasons for these difficulties.

4. Your child is struggling with fluency (stuttering) when talking:

Many toddlers experience some ‘natural dysfluencies’ around 18-24 months of age, at the same time as their language skills start to take off. If, however, these dysfluencies remain for more than a few weeks, this may actually be the beginning of stuttering, which means it’s time to see a speech pathologist. The research tells us that the earlier we start with stuttering intervention, the better the outcomes for your child.

5. Your child has difficulty interacting with others:

All children develop their social communication skills at different rates and some children will naturally be more social than others. However, there can be some tell-tale signs that your child is having difficulty with their social development. You may notice that your child prefers to play on their own the majority of the time, rather than playing with other children. When your child does interact with others, you may notice that your child has difficulty taking turns or sharing toys. Your child may also prefer to play with toys in a particular way and experience ‘big behaviours’ if this changes. A speech pathologist can help identify if this is an area of concern and can work with you and your child to overcome challenges associated with social communication.

6. Your child has difficulties with reading or writing:

When we think of literacy skills, such as reading, writing and spelling, we often place this in the ‘school skills’ category. But did you know that emergent literacy skills (early literacy skills) start to develop in the toddler years, including rhyming words, sitting and listening to a story, pretending to ‘read’ a story by holding the book appropriately and turning the pages are examples of the beginnings of emergent literacy?

Once your child is at Kindergarten, there are more specific indicators that may suggest your child would benefit from a speech pathology review. If you notice that they are having difficulty understanding and retaining letter sounds and names, having difficulty blending or segmenting sounds to form words, or are having difficulty writing sounds and words, this may be an indication that they would benefit from additional support.

In addition, literacy difficulties can often fly ‘under the radar’ until your child commences year 2 or 3. This is when literacy demands really step up. Your child may have difficulty spelling words with specific spelling sounds or patterns, organising their thoughts for writing or have difficulty using specific vocabulary when writing. If any of this sounds familiar, it may be helpful to check in with a speech pathologist.

7. Your child is not achieving their developmental communication milestones:

Even though children can vary with acquiring speech and language, there are guidelines available that can help you determine whether your child is ‘on track’ for their age with their communication skills.

If you are wondering whether your child is displaying indicators of needing speech therapy or support, we have you covered! Check out resources page for helpful downloads that can guide your decision about seeking the advice from a speech pathologist.

Wondering whether your child would benefit from seeing a Speech Pathologist can feel confusing and uncertain for dedicated parents. The A Growing Understanding team are here to support you as you navigate these decisions.

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