Speech therapy for children...does my child need it?
I am asked almost on a daily by friends, parents, or strangers off the street (once they learn my profession of course), Is my child developing normally? Is he saying enough? Should he be talking more? Does he need an evaluation? Does my child need speech therapy?
I don't know! Every child and every family is unique with their own needs and dynamics. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
The answer completely depends on your child and your family. When it comes to speech therapy for children, there are many areas to consider. To know if your child needs therapy, consider:
Hopefully, this page will give you some insight into what to do.
Screening measures of speech and language milestones are designed to give parents and professionals a general baseline of a child's skill level.
If a child hasn't reached a milestone yet, it raises some concern. It DOES NOT mean your child necessarily needs an evaluation. Instead, it DOES MEAN, hmmmm, there might be something going on here. Let's look into this a little further!
I created some free checklists that you can read through and/or fill out. Click below for more information.
Speech and Language Checklists By Age:
Below are speech and language skills checklists divided by age. Open up the file that corresponds with your child's age and get a better picture on how he or she is developing!
If a parent ever has a concern, I say schedule an evaluation. Why not?! There is no harm whatsoever in completing a speech and language evaluation. They are very functional and can pinpoint a child's unique strengths and possible areas of need concerning speech, language, voice, and social skills development.
HOWEVER, what you DO with the evaluation is another story.
This is not a straightforward answer. As always, I will give my best advice that I give all my parents. The ball in is your court (to some degree.) This makes some parents a little uncomfortable because they are use to being told by medical professionals on what to do. They are rarely consulted. However, parents play a BIG part of the therapy team. YOU and YOUR CHILD are the ones attending therapy after all and will be practicing at home. I'm here to guide and help.
If your child attends public school or you are pursuing early childhood or early intervention, the decision to attend speech therapy is not entirely up to you. There are rules and regulations based on standardized scores as well as other factors. However, if you are pursing the private route, the decision is up to you!
Okay, you have your results, now what?! Read my answers below to some FAQ.
My child's scores indicate that she should attend therapy?
If you are ready to commit to speech therapy, then my advice is yes! However, for speech therapy for children to be successful, you need to involved in every step of the process including the important home program. 30 minutes of therapy per week is not enough to make a change. However, daily practice is. The SLP designs unique goals and learning activities for your child depending on needs and progress. As your child's abilities improve and evolve, the therapist is there to assess and re-evaluate and guide the intervention. However, parents implement this intervention at home!
The standardized scores indicate that my child does not need therapy but I still feel she does?
If this is the case, then pursue it. Standardized tests are good but they are not perfect. Some children test very well; however, in the classroom, their performance declines due to distractions, memory difficulties, processing issues, etc... Or, sometimes parents just know that their child needs helps to reach their individual potential not the potential of the normative sample. If this is true, speak with a speech therapist and create a plan that everyone is comfortable with.
When we are faced with decisions about anything, especially children, everyone is ready with solicited and/or unsolicited advice. Every person on this planet seems to be an expert on childcare even speech therapy for children :). While most advice comes from genuine love and concern, my advice is to take everything with a grain of salt. This goes for advice found on blogs as well. Parents sharing advice and support is fantastic, but just be careful about comparing one child to another. No two children develop the same! A person's personal experience with their own child does not mean they understand yours. If you are comfortable with your decisions, be strong and stick by them!
Beware of gimmicks!
There are a lot of websites on the internet that promise a quick fix and some can be very expensive. Parents.... I'm sorry to break the bad news...there is no quick fix. If there were, I would be using it :)
Be leery of flashcards, apps, and computer programs especially if you have a young child. If anyone wants to limit screen time, it is a child who has a speech and/or language delay. The best way to learn language skills is to be immersed in language rich environments. Apps and computer programs can't provide this! Also, they are no research based. You may see a lot of progress made while playing the game but it doesn't carryover to real life and that is what we actually care about, right?!
When a person has trouble learning language skills, it takes work and time. That's the truth! However, with the right program, progress can be made.
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Sometimes a child needs therapy, but due to the system, he/she doesn't qualify due to test scores, funding, insurance problems, etc... This is FRUSTRATING for a parent and for a therapist. I see this happen ALL THE TIME. That is why we created a membership program. For only $99.99, you get an entire home program that targets many different areas of speech and language development. Read more about our membership program here.
Speech therapists are experts on speech and language development and speech therapy for children. Parents are experts concerning their children. If we can combine the two, great things can happen! However, no evaluation is perfect. It is a small slice in time in an unnatural environment. Therefore, therapists depend greatly on the input from parents to get a bigger picture on their child's speech and language abilities in action!!
Therefore, if you think something is wrong, trust your instincts and schedule an evaluation! If you think your child is doing fine, stick by your gut. If you have any concerns, seek advice. You can always take it or leave it!
If you want more information on therapy itself, check out speech therapy for children: types of therapy.