Updated: Apr 22
When a child is learning to speak, it can be an exciting time for everyone involved in the child’s life. But what do you do when those first speaking milestones are delayed, or missed? It might be time to visit your paediatric Speech-Language Pathologist.
What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?
A Speech-Language Pathologist is a specialist who is trained in anatomy, physiology, human language development, psychology, acoustics and more. In Canada, an SLP holds a master’s degree at minimum and is responsible for helping people with speech and language delays and disorders, fluency disorders (like stuttering), voice and resonance disorders, swallowing and feeding disorders, and more. SLPs are qualified to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a broad range of delays and disorders. Indicators that you might need to bring your little one to the SLP are if your child is behind to other children their age, if they have difficulty following instructions or responding to questions, if they have difficulty articulating certain speech sounds, or if they are delayed in beginning to speak.
Is It Too Early to Tell?
No age is “too early” for a Speech-Language Pathologist to assess your child and determine if treatment is needed. It can be difficult for a parent to tell the difference between developmental errors (appropriate for their age as they learn to talk), and non-developmental errors (errors that would need assistance from an SLP).
5 Reasons Early Intervention is Important:
1. “Wait and See” Might Be More Harmful Than Helpful
All too often, parents are advised to “wait and see” if their child will develop out of their speech or language delay. 70-80% of children will indeed outgrow a language delay, but that leaves 20-30% of children with a speech or language delay that they will not grow out of. That group of children is now father behind than when they started, and that valuable time has been lost in getting them the care they need.
2. It Can Affect Their Social Development
When a child has a speech delay, there is a chance the adults around them will communicate with them less. This gives them less opportunity to learn and gain feedback and encouragement for the milestones they are making. When children have delayed speech, they aren’t able to participate fully in some activities or conversations and may fall further behind. Poor social development for children under three can affect them well into adulthood
3. It Can Be a Symptom of Something Else
Speech and language delays could be a symptom of a different issue, such as a speech disorder, hearing loss, autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual disability. With early intervention and assessment from your SLP, you may have the opportunity to uncover other findings and get help for your child sooner.
4. Learning Communication Skills Gets More Difficult Over Time
Toddlers learn at an incredibly fast rate. Their brains are optimized to learn communication skills. If their language or speech delays aren’t addressed earlier, it can be more difficult for them to catch up as they age.
5. Parents Can Gain Valuable Tools They Need to Help at Home
Your child is looking to you first to model communication. With early intervention and help from a Speech-Language Pathologist, you can learn different strategies and tools to help your child with their specific delays at home. In paediatric speech and language care, much of the development is through games, playing, reading books, and daily routines.
If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language delay, it is important to ensure the receive early intervention and care. Simon Says Speech Inc. In Edmonton, Alberta offers assessment, consultation, and speech and language therapy to children 0-18 years old.
1 www.sac-oac.ca, retrieved March 2, 2021
2 Ellis EM, Thal DJ. (2008) Early language delay and risk for language impairment. Perspect Lang Learn Ed., 15(3): 93-100.
3 CASLPA. (2012, October). Early Identification of Speech & Language Disorders. Speech-Language and Audiology Canada. Ottawa, ON, Canada.
4 https://www.zerotothree.org/early-development/brain-development, retrieved March 6, 2021