It’s Just a Little Lisp... Or Is It Time for Speech Therapy?
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What To Expect From Speech Therapy
If parents are worried that their child is not speaking as he or she should, the first step is to obtain a referral from their pediatrician or family practitioner for a speech therapist—specifically one trained in pediatrics and appropriate for the age of the child. Some therapists specialize in older children and others specialize in younger children and infants. And no time is too early. “If a family has a concern about speech, then early intervention results in a better prognosis,” says Stewart. “And it doesn’t have to be intrusive.”
A speech therapist will conduct an evaluation to help identify the cause of the speech delay. If autism or other disorders are suspected, the therapist may refer the family to a developmental pediatrician. The therapist will also work closely with the family as practice at home and parental involvement are key in helping children with speech. “It’s all based in play,” says Stewart. “I get parents involved and play with children, and give them ideas to elicit speech…and build language and vocabulary comprehension. I tell families, ‘Make it part of everyday.’”
With Zeke, Stewart suggested that Tillman continue to work at home on Zeke’s focus and listening skills, through repetition and routine. Tillman put together a book of family photos and sat with Zeke to look at and identify the people in the photos. And she’s continued to work on enunciating words clearly and putting actions to words, especially during playtime (for example, “The truck goes vroom, vroom”), to engage with him and encourage communication overall.
And Tillman has seen results. Zeke’s attention span and his ability to speak in short sentences is much improved, she says. “His development in speech overall as far as clarity and actually being able to understand him is better, and he’s building his vocabulary more,” says Tillman. “And instead of saying just, ‘Mama,’ and pointing or dragging me somewhere, he’ll actually say what he wants.”
Tillman encourages other parents not to wait if they think there’s an issue with their child’s speech. “Don’t be in denial and don’t be afraid. Be encouraged that it’s O.K. for your child to go to speech therapy,” she says. “Don’t think they will outgrow it because you never know. I would hate for my child or anyone’s child not to be where they could be when they could have gotten help in the beginning. If you think your child isn’t hearing properly or their speech seems a little delayed, don’t make excuses, but take those steps to have your child evaluated.”
Danielle Wong Moores is an Augusta freelance writer.
When To Seek Help
Stewart bases her therapy on the practices of the Hanen Centre, which focuses on parental involvement to promote speech development. They recommend that you seek the advice of a speech language professional if your child:
By 12 Months
• Doesn’t babble with changes in tone (e.g. dadadadadadadadada).
• Doesn’t use gestures like waving “bye bye” or shaking head for “no.”
• Doesn’t respond to her/his name.
• Doesn’t communicate in some way when s/he needs help with something.
By 15 Months
• Doesn’t understand and respond to words like “no” and “up.”
• Says no words.
• Doesn’t point to objects or pictures when asked, “Where’s the...?”
• Doesn’t point to things of interest as if to say “Look at that!” and then look right at you.
By 18 Months
• Doesn’t understand simple commands like, “Don’t touch.”
• Isn’t using at least 20 single words like “Mommy” or “up.”
• Doesn’t respond with a word or gesture to a question such as “What’s that? or “Where’s your shoe?”
• Can’t point to two or three major body parts such as head, nose, eyes, feet.
By 24 Months
• Says fewer than 100 words.
• Isn’t consistently joining two words together like “Daddy go” or “ shoes on.”
• Doesn’t imitate actions or words.
• Doesn’t pretend with toys, such as feeding doll or making toy man drive toy car.
By 30 Months
• Says fewer than 300 words.
• Isn’t using action words like “run”, “eat”, “fall.”
• Isn’t using some adult grammar, such as “two babies” and “doggie sleeping.”
• Doesn’t ask questions by 3 years.
• Isn’t using sentences (e.g., “I don’t want that” or “My truck is broken”) by three years.
• Isn’t able to tell a simple story by four or five years.
Source: The Hanen Centre