When a child does not reach a milestone “on time,” it can make parents anxious. Even though you may understand that children develop at different rates, it can still be worrisome if your child doesn’t speak on time.
There is a time when speech therapy is appropriate, and other times when it’s simply a matter of your child not being ready yet. How is a parent to know? And if speech therapy is indicated, how do you proceed? Here are some tips and ideas.
According to experts and various sources, the following milestones are considered “normal” for babies and toddlers.
* Under a year of age, it’s considered normal for babies to interact verbally with their environment by making sounds. These are the precursors of speech.
* At around 12 to 15 months of age, babies begin to mimic the sounds of their native language, and they begin saying single words. They can follow simple, one-step directions.
* From 18 months to 2 years is the time when vocabulary increases and toddlers begin to put two words together, like “ball round.”
* Between 2 and 3 years, speech usually “takes off.” Vocabulary and comprehension increase. If your child is, for example, 3 years old and only putting two words together, that might be considered a delay and require therapy.
A Combination of Factors
Some experts point out that speech delay alone is not necessarily cause for concern, but speech delay accompanied by other issues might be more serious. For example, if your child is “behind schedule” for speech and also exhibits other unusual behaviors, it might mean it’s time for therapy. Such unusual behaviors could include:
* Lack of non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, smiles, babbling, and other socially engaging behaviors
* An inability to follow directions, or even hear them
* Poor memory, particularly short-term
* Extreme frustration when trying to speak
3. Talk to the Prospective Therapist
If you have concerns about your child’s speech development, a good place to start would probably be your pediatrician. He or she can give you an opinion regarding whether or not speech therapy is indicated, and can recommend a speech therapist if necessary.
It also wouldn’t hurt to get a second or even third opinion from another pediatrician, and you might want to talk to other therapists besides the one your pediatrician recommends. When it comes to getting your child the help he or she needs, it pays to be a little choosy. When you are looking for a therapist, here are some things to keep in mind:
* Does the therapist have a demeanor that you like and feel you could work with?
* Does your child seem to “take” to the therapist?
* What kind of approach does the therapist use?
If you have any “bad vibes” or just aren’t comfortable with a therapist, it’s okay to keep looking.