How Young is too Young?
A common question many Speech Language Pathologist’s hear is “When should I start looking into Speech Therapy for my child?”. This is not the easiest question to answer. The common response from many family members and sometimes pediatricians are, “Give them time” or “Every child develops at a different rate”. Which is true! However this does not give parents solid guidelines to follow.
The American Speech and Hearing Association provides a helpful guide on receptive and expressive language skills to help determine where your child should be: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart.htm
Before 1 year: Babbling using /m/, /p/ and /b/ sounds
Using one word by one year such as ‘mama’, ‘dada’ ‘hi’
1- 2 years: Growing vocabulary with more words every month
Begins to put two words together ‘hi papa’
2-3 years: A word for almost everything
Uses 2 -3 words together to talk about and ask for things
3-4 years: Talks about day and uses pronouns
Answers easy ‘wh’ questions (who, when, where)
4-5 years: Says all speech sounds although may have some mistakes for more difficult sounds
Keeps the conversation going!
There is a hierarchy to our development, and it typically does not work if we skip a step. For example, if your child is not babbling, they aren’t using the muscles needed for more complex speech sounds and feeding development. Very often a child’s receptive language is right on track for understanding everything going on around them. However, they may experience frustration with expressive language because they know what they want to say, but they cannot get the words out.
The best advice is follow your instinct, parents know their kids best! If you feel they are falling behind, speak to your pediatrician and seek out an evaluation. Review early intervention guidelines for you area to see if your child may qualify for services. Keep in mind many evaluations for young children incorporate both receptive and expressive language skills, which most state agencies will utilize to determine if your child qualifies. If you feel you child demonstrates primarily an expressive speech language delay or exhibits poor ability to be understood when attempting to speak, then a private consultation will most likely be a more appropriate approach. Common rule of thumb for Speech Language Pathologists is the earlier we start working on language or that difficult speech sound, the easier it will be to see progress. Most therapies for early childhood intervention are parent education based. It’s never too early to learn some strategies to facilitate your child’s development!