When Should Parents Consider Starting Speech Therapy for Their Children?

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on August 23, 2023
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A child’s ability to communicate effectively is crucial to their overall development.

While most children progress at their own pace, parents must be aware of potential speech delays and consider speech therapy if necessary. 

You should know that speech therapy is a practical, evidence-based method for children with primary speech and/or language impairment.

While there is no definitive answer on how long speech therapy will take, research indicates that the average length for notable gains in speech clarity is between 14 and 20 hours of treatment. However, this estimate can vary greatly depending on the child’s circumstances.

This blog post will discuss the warning signs of speech delay, the benefits of speech therapy, finding the right therapist, and how to support your child’s progress at home.

Understanding when speech therapy may be recommended for your toddler is essential for their development. While every child’s development is unique, there are some general guidelines to consider.

Here’s some information to help you navigate this topic:

When to Consider Speech Therapy for Your Toddler:

  1. Missed Developmental Milestones: If your toddler is not meeting the expected speech and language milestones for their age, it may be time to consider speech therapy. Examples include not babbling by nine months, not saying single words by 12-15 months, or not forming sentences by two years.
  2. Limited Vocabulary: If your toddler has a minimal range of words and struggles to communicate their needs and wants effectively compared to other children their age.
  3. Difficulty Being Understood: If your toddler’s speech is difficult to understand or if they have persistent difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
  4. Lack of Progress: If your toddler’s speech and language skills do not seem to progress over time or experience significant frustration when trying to communicate.
  5. Frustration or Social Isolation: If your toddler becomes frustrated, withdrawn, or avoids social interactions due to communication difficulties.

How do I know if my child needs speech therapy?

When to Start Speech Therapy

Understanding whether your child may benefit from speech therapy is essential for parents. Recognizing the signs and seeking professional speech and language evaluation can help determine if speech therapy is necessary.

Signs that may indicate a need for speech therapy:

  1. Speech Sound Errors: If your child consistently has difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or if their speech is difficult to understand compared to children of the same age.
  2. Limited Vocabulary: If your child has a limited range of words for their age group or struggles to find the right words to express themselves.
  3. Difficulty Understanding and Following Directions: If your child has trouble comprehending and following simple instructions or frequently asks for repetition or clarification.
  4. Language Delays: If your child’s language skills significantly lag behind their peers, such as having difficulty constructing sentences or using correct grammar.
  5. Stuttering or Fluency Issues: If your child exhibits frequent hesitations, repetitions, or prolongations of sounds and syllables while speaking.
  6. Lack of Social Communication Skills: If your child needs help engaging in conversations, maintaining eye contact, or understanding social cues.
  7. Oral Motor Challenges: If your child experiences difficulties with feeding, swallowing, or drooling beyond what is typical for their age.

The Benefits of Speech Therapy: 

Speech therapy offers numerous benefits that extend beyond improving speech and language skills. It can boost your child’s confidence, enhance social interactions, and foster better communication with family, friends, and teachers.

A speech therapist can help your child:

  • Develop Clear Articulation: Speech therapy focuses on improving pronunciation and clarity, allowing your child to express themselves more effectively.
  • Enhance Language Skills: Therapists use various techniques to strengthen vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension abilities, enabling your child to understand better and use language.
  • Improve Social Skills: Speech therapy provides opportunities for your child to practice communication in a supportive environment, helping them develop social confidence and interaction skills.

Steps to Determine if Speech Therapy is Needed:

  1. Observe and Document: Pay close attention to your child’s speech and language patterns, noting any concerns or challenges you observe.
  2. Consult with Professionals: Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) to evaluate and assess their speech and language development.
  3. Professional Evaluation: The SLP will assess your child’s communication skills, including speech production, language comprehension, and social communication abilities.
  4. Expert Recommendations: Based on the evaluation, the SLP will provide professional recommendations regarding speech therapy and suggest appropriate interventions if necessary.

When seeking a licensed speech therapist for your child, consider the following:

  • Credentials and Experience: Look for licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) specializing in pediatric speech therapy.
  • Compatibility: Choose a therapist who makes your child feel comfortable and engaged during sessions.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Ensure the therapist maintains open lines of communication with both you and your child’s school or other healthcare providers.

How Can Speech Therapists Help Your Toddler?

Speech therapy can be incredibly beneficial if you have concerns about your toddler’s speech and language development.

Let’s explore how speech therapists can help your little one:

  1. Identification and Assessment: A speech therapist will assess your toddler’s speech and language skills to identify delays or disorders. They will evaluate their ability to understand and use words, pronounce sounds, and communicate effectively.
  2. Individualized Treatment Plans: The speech therapist will create a tailored treatment plan to address your child’s specific needs based on the assessment. This plan may include various techniques and exercises to improve speech production, language comprehension, and overall communication skills.
  3. Improving Articulation and Pronunciation: Speech therapists focus on helping toddlers develop clear articulation and proper pronunciation of sounds, words, and sentences. Through targeted exercises and practice, your child can gain confidence in expressing themselves and being understood by others.
  4. Expanding Vocabulary and Language Skills: Speech therapy sessions often involve activities promoting vocabulary development and comprehension. Therapists use engaging techniques to enhance toddlers’ ability to understand and use words, follow directions, engage in conversations, and express their thoughts effectively.
  5. Enhancing Social Communication: Speech therapists also work on improving social communication skills, such as turn-taking, maintaining eye contact, and using appropriate body language. These skills are invaluable for building connections with peers, teachers, and family members.
  6. Boosting Confidence and Self-Esteem: Speech therapy can help boost your toddler’s confidence and self-esteem by addressing early speech and language challenges. As they communicate more successfully, they will likely feel more empowered and motivated to engage in social interactions.
  7. Collaboration and Guidance for Parents: Speech therapists understand that parents play a vital role in their child’s progress. They will guide you in supporting your toddler’s speech development at home, including specific activities, strategies, and resources.

Is there ever a reason to wait to start speech therapy?

Speech therapy addresses speech and language challenges in children, improving their communication skills and overall development. Early intervention can have significant benefits, but there may be circumstances where waiting could be more appropriate.

Factors to Consider:

  1. Age and Developmental Stage: Your child’s age and developmental stage play a crucial role. Observation and natural language growth may be sufficient if they are in the early stages of speech and language development and show only mild delays. However, seeking professional guidance is essential if the uncertainties persist or worsen.
  2. Medical Conditions or Disabilities: If your child has underlying medical conditions or disabilities that impact their speech and language development, it is essential to consult with healthcare professionals and specialists to determine the appropriate timing for speech therapy.
  3. Family and Cultural Factors: Cultural beliefs, family circumstances, and availability of resources can influence the decision to start speech therapy. Considering these factors in discussions with professionals is essential to make an informed choice.
  4. Professional Recommendations: Consulting with a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) is crucial. They will evaluate your child’s speech and language skills, consider any underlying factors, and provide expert recommendations tailored to your child’s specific needs.

How does speech therapy help my child with reading, writing, and spelling?

Understanding how speech therapy can support your child’s reading, writing, and spelling skills is crucial.

Speech therapy plays a significant role in addressing underlying language difficulties that may impact these areas.

The Role of Speech Therapy:

  1. Phonological Awareness: Speech therapy helps children develop phonological awareness, which involves recognizing and manipulating sounds within words. This skill is essential for reading and spelling.
  2. Articulation and Speech Sound Production: Correcting speech sound errors through therapy improves clarity and pronunciation, enhancing reading and spelling accuracy.
  3. Vocabulary and Language Skills: Speech therapy helps expand a child’s vocabulary and language comprehension, enabling them to understand written text better, follow instructions, and grasp complex concepts.
  4. Grammar and Sentence Structure: Addressing language difficulties in therapy improves grammar and sentence structure, improving writing skills and communicating thoughts effectively on paper.
  5. Pragmatic Language: Speech therapy also focuses on practical language skills, such as understanding social cues and using appropriate language in different contexts, which can enhance overall communication and written expression.

Speech therapy practices for your 2-year-old at Home

As your child reaches age 2, it’s an excellent time to introduce some speech therapy strategies and techniques at home to support their language development.

Here are some tips to help you engage your child in speech therapy activities:

Speech Therapy Practices for 2-Year-Olds at Home:

  1. Engage in Conversations: Use straightforward sentences for frequent and interactive conversations with your child. Encourage them to respond and participate by asking open-ended questions like “What did you do today?” or “Tell me about your favorite toy.”
  2. Read Aloud: Read books together daily, pointing out pictures, naming objects, and emphasizing words and sounds. Choose books with repetitive phrases or rhymes to help develop their language skills.
  3. Sing Songs and Nursery Rhymes: Singing and reciting nursery rhymes can enhance your child’s language skills, rhythm, and pronunciation. Please encourage them to join in, imitate the sounds, and repeat the words.
  4. Expand Vocabulary: Introduce new words during daily activities. For example, name the ingredients while cooking or describe the actions involved. Repeat and reinforce new words regularly to help expand their vocabulary.
  5. Imitate Sounds and Actions: Encourage your child to imitate various sounds, animal noises, and actions. Model the correct pronunciation and gestures, and praise their attempts to replicate these sounds and movements.
  6. Use Visual Supports: Incorporate visual aids such as flashcards or picture charts to help your child associate words with images. This can aid in vocabulary development and improve their understanding of concepts.
  7. Play Pretend: Engage in imaginative play with your child, using toys or props that encourage them to imitate real-life scenarios. This helps develop their language skills and fosters creativity.
  8. Provide a Language-Rich Environment: Surround your child with a language-rich environment by exposing them to books, educational TV shows, and interactive apps that promote language development.
  9. Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) for recommendations specific to your child’s needs and to ensure their speech and language skills are developing appropriately.

Supporting Progress at Home:

While speech therapy sessions are essential, you can also support your child’s progress between appointments:

  • Encourage Language-Rich Environments: Engage in conversations, read books together, and provide opportunities for your child to practice their skills.
  • Reinforce Correct Pronunciation: Correct mispronunciations by modeling the correct sounds or words.
  • Practice Regularly: Create simple activities or games focusing on specific speech goals, making exercise enjoyable for your child.

When To Start Speech Therapy Conclusion

In conclusion, parents should consider starting speech therapy for their children if they observe warning signs of speech delay. By addressing their speech issues and language challenges early on, children can develop vital communication skills, boost their self-esteem, and thrive socially.

Finding the right therapist and practicing speech therapy at home can significantly affect your child’s progress.

Finally, we would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions on what mental health service, app, or course our Online Mental Health Reviews team should buy and try next. Your feedback is valuable as we continue to provide reliable reviews in the mental health industry.

If You Are In Crisis

If you’re in crisis, it’s important not to wait for an online therapy appointment. Reach out for immediate help by calling 911. Remember, plans to hurt yourself, or others are severe and require close attention. If you’re contemplating self-harm, dial 988 to connect with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It’s available 24/7 to assist.

Contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357) for additional resources. This confidential helpline supports individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. They are available round-the-clock every day of the year.

Additional Speech Therapy Articles

For further Online Mental Health Reviews about speech therapy, check out these topics: Better Speech review, find right therapist, essential materials, costs, benefits, adults, techniques, activities, Los Angeles, pictures, quotes, voice, when, & clinic.

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