Kids Health

When should your child see a speech therapist? Here are some cues

To allow you to see a little more clearly and to help you identify if a visit to the speech therapist would be beneficial for your little one, here are some indications

By Shivani Sikri

There are individual stages or ways in which young children evolve their vocal skills, and there is no one thumb rule. When you see other young kids of similar ages to yours or meet their parents, the differences between them can be highly contrasting. Although this isn’t the best way to conclude your child’s vocal development, as all children develop at their own pace, there are explicit milestones that you should keep in mind and keep a vigil.

Stuttering, inversion of letters, distorted words, even if the teacher has sounded the alarm on you, simply don’t panic. You can consider meeting a speech-language therapist, that can help your child cope with specific difficulties.

My child does not speak well

Zozing, stammering, difficulty pronouncing certain letters (the R for example) or certain sounds (the ch becomes s or j), distorted words (the roar of “r” for a car): all these bad reflexes can be corrected in a few sessions. Often, it is the fact of still sucking his thumb or his pacifier that is in question: the speech therapist will mainly propose a work of positioning the tongue, in the form of games. In the event of a language delay (limited vocabulary, difficulty in constructing a sentence, etc.), the follow-up will be longer: the earlier you intervene, the better.

Has a hoarse voice

This persistent voice disorder, called dysphonia, means your child shouts too much or uses their breathing improperly, straining their vocal cords. Rehabilitation sessions are recommended to make him work on his posture, his breathing, and help him have a more relaxing breath.

Has trouble reading

From the kindergarten section, we can notice that he does not associate a letter with a sound. In first grade, he stumbles on the syllables, jumps or confuses the letters (B and D for example), mixes up the words which are alike (fly / ladle), decipher with difficulty and does not understand what he reads? This is perhaps dyslexia . Techniques exist to treat this reading disorder and help the child develop compensation strategies. Many of them associate letters and sounds with shapes or images. Books and software can also facilitate learning. If other difficulties are associated, a complete follow-up with a psychomotor therapist and an occupational therapist is organised in order to prevent school failure.

Also Read |Five ways to help kids develop language skills at home

To allow you to see a little more clearly and to help you identify if a visit to the speech therapist would be beneficial for your little one, here are some indications (obviously this is not an exhaustive list.!). Refer to your child’s age and see if the signs of difficulty noted below remind you of your child. If this is the case, it is strongly indicated that you start the process to meet a speech therapist.

At the age of 1:

  • Your child does not babble or very little (ex: bababa, mamama).

  • He does not use sounds and gestures to signify his needs (ex: he is thirsty, he is tired, he wants to be picked up).

  • Doesn’t smile when his parents interact with him, doesn’t care about them or watch them.

  • Does not respond to the call of his name.

At the age of 18 months:

  • Your child does not use simple words like “daddy, mommy, blankie”.

At the age of 2:

  • Your child does not imitate your words and your games (eg noises of animals, gestures of a rhyme).

  • Your child has a vocabulary of only a few simple words (usually around 50 words are expected).

  • He does not make sentences (ex: daddy gone).

  • Your child does not ask questions (ex: What is it?)

  • Does not understand simple instructions. (ex: Give the ball. Show me your feet)

At the age of 3:

  • Your child makes sentences of only 2 words.

  • Your child has difficulty naming pictures or making a request.

  • He does not make himself understood by familiar adults other than his parents.

  • Your child is unable to tell a well-known story or participate in a short conversation.

  • He has difficulty answering the questions “who”, “what” and “where”.

At the age of 4:

  • Your child only makes short sentences of 2-3 words.

  • He has difficulty answering “why” and “when” questions

  • Your child has difficulty understanding longer instructions without help (eg: Go get your blue shoes in your room and bring them to the hall.)

  • He has difficulty understanding the concepts of space (ex: on, up, down, in)

  • He can’t make himself understood by strangers.

At the age of 5,

  • Your child has difficulty pronouncing sounds (at this age we still exclude the sounds “ch” and “j”)

  • Your child’s sentences are missing little words such as determinants or pronouns (ex: he, she, it, they, etc )

  • Your child has trouble matching the words in their sentences.

  • Your child stutters when he talks.

  • Your child has difficulty telling a story.

  • He has difficulty answering questions you ask him.

(The writer is Chief Nutritionist & Co-founder at Nutri4Verve.) 

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