Delayed Speech or Language Development - part 3
What Speech-Language Pathologists Do
If you or your doctor suspect that your child has a problem, early evaluation by a speech-language pathologist is crucial. Of course, if there turns out to be no problem after all, an evaluation can ease your fears.
Although you can seek out a speech-language pathologist on your own, your primary care doctor can refer you to one.
In conducting an evaluation, a speech-language pathologist will look at a child's speech and language skills within the context of total development. Besides observing your child, the speech-language pathologist will conduct standardized tests and scales, and look for milestones in speech and language development.
The speech-language pathologist will also assess:
• what your child understands (called receptive language)
• what your child can say (called expressive language)
• If your child is attempting to communicate in other ways, such as pointing, head shaking, gesturing, etc.
• Sound development and clarity of speech.
• your child's oral-motor status (how a child's mouth, tongue, palate, etc., work together for speech as well as eating and swallowing)
If the speech-language pathologist finds that your child needs speech therapy, your involvement will be very important. You can observe therapy sessions and learn to participate in the process. The speech therapist will show you how you can work with your child at home to improve speech and language skills.
Evaluation by a speech-language pathologist may find that your expectations are simply too high. Educational materials that outline developmental stages and milestones may help you look at your child more realistically.
What Parents Can Do
Like so many other things, speech development is a mixture of nature and nurture. Genetic makeup will, in part, determine intelligence and speech and language development. However, a lot of it depends on environment.
Is a child adequately stimulated at home or at child care? Are there opportunities for communication exchange and participation? What kind of feedback does the child get?
When speech, language, hearing, or developmental problems do exist, early intervention can provide the help a child needs. And when you have a better understanding of why your child isn't talking, you can learn ways to encourage speech development.
Here are a few general tips you can employ at home:
• Spend a lot of time communicating with your child, even during infancy — talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds and gestures.
• Read to your child, starting as early as 6 months. You don't have to finish a whole book, but look for age-appropriate soft or board books or picture books that encourage kids to look while you name the pictures. Try starting with a classic book or books with textures that kids can touch. Later, let your child point to recognizable pictures and try to name them. Then move on to nursery rhymes, which have rhythmic appeal. Progress to predictable books, in which your child can anticipate what happens. Your little one may even start to memorize favorite stories.
• Use everyday situations to reinforce your child's speech and language. In other words, talk your way through the day. For example, name foods at the grocery store, explain what you're doing as you cook a meal or clean a room, point out objects around the house, and as you drive, point out sounds you hear. Ask questions and acknowledge your child's responses (even when they're hard to understand). Keep things simple, but never use ‘baby talk.’
Whatever your child's age, recognizing and treating problems early on is the best approach to help with speech and language delays. With proper therapy and time, your child will likely be better able to communicate with you and the rest of the world.
delayed speech or language development
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