When do you need a child speech therapist?



Speech and language-related issues tend to be one of the most common issues in the development of a child and are often tough to detect.


Why does your child have speech issues?

Now, in order to understand when one needs a speech therapist for kids, it’s quite necessary to first understand the reasons that they may develop such issues.

  1. Lack of conversation

The most obvious way for any child to learn how to speak is to engage in conversation – it’s how most of us learn about the nuances of both verbal and non-verbal communication. The lack of conversation is a very common reason behind the under-development of speech, making it important for parents to stimulate conversation with their child.

  1. Hearing issues

Given that the ability to speak is so crucially dependent on one’s ability to hear themselves, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that children with hearing issues are likely to speak very little, if at all. One sign that your child’s unable to speak because of hearing issues is if they use gestures instead of verbal acknowledgement.

  1. Tongue-tie

A common reason behind speech delays is what’s medically known as ankyloglossia – tongue-tie. In addition to complicating the process of breast-feeding, this condition can also make the pronunciation of the following sounds quite difficult:

  • “Th”
  • “Z”
  • “D”
  • “L”
  • “R”
  • “S”
  • “T”
  1. Neurological and intellectual disabilities

Neurological disorders that can physically affect a child’s ability to form speech include:

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brain injuries of a traumatic nature

Speech can also be delayed due to intellectual disabilities – thus making their inability to form words a cognitive issue rather than anything specific to speaking.

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Signs that your child’s speech issues are due to Autism can include anything from repeating certain phrases instead of using new ones (echolalia) to impaired verbal/non-verbal communication to even speech/language regression. Read our blog on Autism to know more.


How to tell if your child has speech issues

Now that we know how speech issues can arise in children, it’s also important to know the tell-tale signs you should be looking for in your child’s development through the first few years of their life. It’s also very important to note that the earlier you manage to detect the signs and get them the necessary help in the form of speech therapy, the better it will be for their upbringing.

  • 3 months

Look for non-verbal communication cues: at this stage, your child should at least be able to make eye contact and smile. The absence of these is hence important to look into.

  • 12 months

At this point, your child should be making gestures, babbling or even playing with other people. If they don’t, it’s advisable to take them to a speech therapist.

  • 18 months

This is when children begin to learn their very first words – thus even verbalising a few of them. In addition, they also typically use a lot of physical gestures and actively engage with other people. If they don’t do any of this, you know what to do.

  • 24 months

This is when your child’s vocabulary should be expanding: they should be learning new words on a regular basis and combining multiple ones to express themselves (though typically not sentences). While it’s fine if they mispronounce certain words at this point, what they’re trying to say should be quite understandable. If it isn’t, your child really should see a speech therapist.

  • 4 years

Signs of speech issues are fairly clear at this point, a few important things to look out for can be listed as follows:

  • Mispronouncing vowels and under-using consonants
  • Using limited-than-usual vocabulary
  • Displaying lower-than-usual interaction levels
  • Frequently using the wrong words
  • Either not answering questions at all or answering them by repeating the questions themselves


How does speech therapy work?

The entirety of what happens during speech therapy – including online speech therapy – can be summarised in three words: exercises and activities. The exercises and activities in question vary depending on your child’s age and other needs, but by and large that is what therapists utilise to gradually bring about changes in your child’s speech issues. A few common examples include the following:

  • Interacting through playing and talking
  • Using pictures and books to stimulate linguistic development
  • Teach correct sounds through entertaining playing sessions
  • Providing you with homework in order to continue the therapy work when you return home


What kinds of issues can speech therapy rectify?

The answer is: quite a lot! The science behind speech therapy has come a very long way since its genesis back in the 1920s; as a result, therapists are now able to treat a vast variety of speech impediments and challenges – even through online courses. By no means exhaustive or thorough – especially given that the field is constantly evolving with new trends and findings – a list of such issues are as follows:

  • Speech issues arising from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder-related challenges
  • Receptive Disorder – “in which both the receptive and expressive areas of communication may be affected in any degree, from mild to severe.”
  • Dysarthria – which arises when a child’s oral muscles are too weak to form words
  • Stuttering and other similar fluency issues
  • Apraxia – in which children have trouble making accurate speech movements
  • Anxiety disorder-based Mutism

In conclusion, it’s important for parents to remember that your child’s speech issues need not be a dead end. With time, patience, effort and the right kind of help (Happen to be looking for speech therapists in Mumbai? Then click here!) your child will get considerably better before you know it!

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