Watching your child grow and develop new skills is one of the great joys of parenting.
From your little one’s first steps to building their tallest block towers, it can be a wonderful experience to be along for the ride.
When it comes to speech and language development, though, it’s not uncommon for toddlers to experience some delays.
This can happen as a result of a hearing issue, a developmental disability, or a variety of other factors.
Every child also just develops at a different rate.
However, if you’re a parent, you know it can be stressful when you think your child isn’t hitting developmental milestones on time.
You might find yourself wondering often when to seek the help of a professional, or if you’re making mountains out of a molehill.
The good news is, it’s never too soon to seek early intervention with speech therapy if your child is experiencing difficulties with their language and speech skills.
In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the signs that your child could benefit from speech therapy.
We’ll help you know what to look out for to help stay on top of their needs.
When It’s Just Baby Babble
Babies don’t speak, so how do you know if your baby might have a speech or language disorder?
Well, young children will spend a lot of time just learning how to make sounds.
Generally, if your child is making sounds and word fragments and they’re below a year old, you don’t have to worry.
However, they should at least be babbling.
A child who isn’t making sounds at all by four to seven months may have an underlying issue with their language skills or their hearing.
If this is the case seeing a speech therapist for children may be helpful to find the underlying issue and address it as early as possible.
When You Should See A Speech Therapist For Kids
Different treatment may have different levels of effectiveness depending on the underlying cause of a speech delay.
In many cases, a pediatric speech therapist can be helpful to diagnose and offer treatments for your child’s language and speech issues.
Some speech disorders are more common than others, but many can be overcome or improved with the help of a speech therapist.
Let’s talk a little bit about speech milestones, and some of the signs that may mean it’s time for you to bring your child to see a speech therapist.
1. They Don’t Gesture Before Speaking
Even before children start to communicate with speech, they start communicating in other ways.
Before children can speak, they will use gestures to communicate.
Your child should be able to gesture towards objects they want, or wave and point to direct the attention of others.
This is typically the first kind of intentional communication your child will show.
If your child isn’t starting to gesture to communicate by seven to twelve months of age, that can be a sign of a possible language disorder.
At this point, it’s a good idea to consult a speech therapist about what some helpful next steps may be for you and your child.
2. They Don’t Understand Verbal Requests
By the age of twelve to twenty four months, a child should be able to follow basic requests.
Your child’s comprehension will develop before their ability to speak.
So even if your child can’t put together full sentences, they should be able to understand simple sentences at this age.
For example, if you request “pass me a block”, your child should be able to understand what you’re asking.
Of course, we all know toddlers can be stubborn.
Sometimes they’ll understand exactly what you’re asking but will choose not to listen.
That’s a different issue, though.
If your child doesn’t listen occasionally, that’s likely not a cause for concern.
However, if your child doesn’t seem to respond to your requests at all, it may be time to seek out a speech therapist.
Your child’s speech therapist can help to determine whether your child is dealing with a language delay and if so, what the best course of action is.
3. They’re Speaking In Broken Sentences
Between one and a half and two yours, your child should start assembling the vocabulary they’ve gained into longer sentences.
This is an important step for your child learning to communicate.
Your child might ask for things, like “milk please”, or be able to tell other children off, like “don’t do that!”
Their pronunciation probably won’t be perfect or understood by everyone.
Generally, though, they should be able to put together simple sentences.
You might want to see a speech-language pathologist if your child can’t put words together into simple sentences by the age of two.
Even if they know single words and understand what you say, not being able to make sentences could be a red flag.
A speech therapist will be able to assess their language learning progress and identify their needs going forward.
4. They Pronounce Their Vowels Wrong
If you have a child, you probably know that consonant sounds can be challenging for them.
However, vowel sounds often come pretty naturally to young children.
If your child can’t pronounce ‘th’ sounds yet, it’s probably not a cause for concern.
But if they’re having difficulty with their vowels, it might be a sign of something bigger.
This is true whether their trouble comes from pronouncing vowels in words or pronouncing vowel sounds on their own.
Difficulty with vowels is a sign that speech therapy may benefit your child.
5. They Have Difficulty Imitating Sounds
Toddlers love to imitate just about anything they can get their eyes and ears on.
From the adults in their lives, to pets and television characters, they tend to repeat sounds that they’ve heard as a step to forming their own words.
By your child’s first birthday, they should be able to imitate the sounds they hear.
If they’re having difficulty with this, it may be worth getting a professional speech therapist opinion on what the next steps of your child’s speech journey might look like.
6. Their Speech Just Isn’t Progressing
Different children learn to speak at different paces.
One child’s learning timeline may be different from that of their peers or siblings, and that’s alright.
Generally, however, speech development involves steady improvement.
You might notice that your child was picking up sounds and word fragments but their progress has plateaued.
You may also notice that their progress has regressed back to how they were speaking at a younger age.
In either of these cases, it’s worth looking into speech therapy to check in on whether their skills are progressing as well as they can be.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
Teaching your child to communicate is an amazing journey, and bumps in the road are all a part of the process.
If your child is having difficulties learning to speak, addressing their needs early can make a world of difference.
At District Speech we understand how important your child’s needs are to you.
Contact us today to book an appointment and get your child started on their path to better communication.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.