Common Questions You Might Have About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

Q: What do clinician’s mean when they use terms like speech, language and communication?

A: Knowing what these terms mean is helpful when determining what area your child has a delay or disorder. These 3 separate terms help us better understand how to meet your child’s individual needs.

Speech is communication through the use of spoken words that are made up of sounds. An example of an articulation error might be “tar” for “car” etc.

Language encompasses rules about what words mean and how we put words together and use them in phrases and sentences. Examples might include “Her’s is running” vs “She is running” or skip is a verb where pretty is an adjective etc.

Communication targets sharing information. Speech language pathologist look at how a child makes requests, comments, directs actions, cessation, asks questions and expresses feelings to communicate through the use of gestures, speech, writing, augmentative and alternative communication etc.

Whenever a child experiences difficultly in one or more of these areas it is important to seek out a speech language pathologist for an evaluation to help improve and remediate speech, language and communication deficits.

Q: When is the right time to begin speech and language services for my child? What are developmental milestones I should be watching for?

A: Communication Developmental Milestone Red Flags to watch for include but are not limited to:

  • 6 months my child does not laugh, squeal or look towards sounds
  • 9 months my child has limited or no babbling or does not indicate when they are happy or upset.
  • 12 months my child does not point to objects or use gestures such as waving or shaking head.
  • 15 months my child has not spoken their first words and does not respond to “no” or “bye bye”
  • 18 months my child does not speak at least 6-10 words consistently
  • 20 months my child does not use at least 6 consonant sounds or does not hear well or discriminational between sounds.
  • 24 months my child has a vocabulary of less then 50 words or has decreased interest in social interactions.
  • 36 months strangers have difficulty understanding my child or my child uses simple sentences.

The above listed milestones are red flags but there are many other signs and symptoms to be aware of. For these reasons early interventions is needed for development of speech, language and communication skills. If you have concerns about your child’s development in these areas contact Foundation Speech Therapy for a screening or evaluation. THE BENEFITS OF EARLY INTERVENTION IS WELL DOCUMENTED.  Do not be afraid to seek out advice.

Q: What are important milestones for speech, language and communication in young children?

A: This is an exciting time of development and growth, important to speech, language, and communication milestones include:

Speech Sound Milestones:

  • 4-6 months you will hear your baby start to “coo”, squeal , growl, make “raspberries” or vowel-like sounds such as “oooo” and “eeee”.
  • 5 months you will begin to hear consonant sounds paired with a vowel such as “ba” or “ga.
  • 7-9 months repeat and use reduplicated syllables such as “bababa” “mama” etc.
  • 10-12 months will babble and use variegated or mixed sounds such as “bagabaga” with a variety of developmental sounds.

Language Milestones:

  • 12 months first word
  • 18- 20 months will use about 20 words
  • 24 months will use 50 words and emerging two-word phrases (e.g., “me go,” “more please”)

Communication Milestones:

  • 4-6 weeks your child should being to smile
  • 4 months your child should begin to look towards voices they hear.
  • 6-7 months they begin to pay attention to caregivers (e.g., mom, dad, babysitter grandma) and reach upward to be picked up.
  • 8-9 months they “Take turns” making babbling sounds
  • 11 months they point at objects that catch their interest
  • 13 months they may begin to shake their head “no”

Q: If I am concerned about a child’s speech or language development, what should I do?

A: Always trust your instincts, you are with your child most. Some may say that a child will  “outgrow” a speech or language delay. In some cases this is true, however it is impossible to know which children will outgrow their delay and which will need support from a speech-language therapist. Seeking out early intervention allows you to find answers through a speech and language  evaluation to diagnose and recommend treatment for therapy services if needed.

Q: Do you feel that pediatricians best identify if a child has a language delay or disorder?

A: Pediatricians are the primary care providers for young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed a set of rules that assists pediatricians in identifying speech/language and other developmental delays in children. They are responsible for regularly inquiring and periodically screening children for developmental delays. When a speech or language delay (or disorder) is suspected, pediatricians should refer the child to a certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). A Speech-Language Pathologist is a specialist in normal and disordered speech and language development.

Unfortunately some pediatricians are quicker at referring children than others. For a variety of  reasons, most pediatricians do not follow the rules set by the AAP for identification of language delays. Unfortunately, many children with language delays or disorders are not identified until kindergarten, and they miss the benefits of early treatment.

By sharing your concerns and advocating for your child you can work with your pediatrician in making a timely referral for early intervention services. By bringing your child in for regular checkups with your pediatrician it allows them to regularly talk about your child’s developmental concerns on a regular basis.  Research shows that caregivers’ instincts about a child’s development are usually correct. Caregivers should share any concerns that they have about a child’s language development with the pediatrician for this reason.

If a caregiver feels that his/her concerns are not being addressed by the child’s pediatrician, he/she should consult with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). The speech language pathologist is able to screen your child and help you request and evaluation.

Q: What is involved in the evaluation process when identifying a child with a possible speech and language delay or disorder?

A: A speech-language evaluation is an official assessment of a child’s speech/language abilities. A Speech Language Pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) performs the evaluation. Information gained during an evaluation helps the SLP to determine whether the child has a speech-language delay or disorder. A combination of family history, observation, standardized tests and informal measures are use to determine the need for services and goals to address.

Q: How important is a child’s early speech/language development to later success in elementary school, middle school, high school and college?

A: Early speech and language development are very important to a child’s academic success. Children who reach developmental language milestones earlier are more likely to do better academically later in life.

This does not mean that a child who shows some delay in developing language will not be successful in school. In fact, children with language delays can “catch up” to their peers if they are identified before kindergarten, and they receive needed treatment from a Speech-Language Pathologist starting immediately after they are identified.

If there is concern that a child is not following typical speech and language development, contact Foundation Speech Therapy for an evaluation.