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Early Signs Your Child May Need Speech Therapy

06/24/2015 06:07 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT
Shutterstock / Serhiy Kobyakov

Trying to determine if a child needs treatment for speech and language delay can be difficult and stressful for parents. Each child expresses him or herself differently and it may be natural for children not to follow the expected milestones exactly as they're described. As a parent or caregiver, the difficulty lies in telling whether your child's lack of expressive language is a sign of comprehension problems, a weak vocabulary, or speech or sound production difficulties.

At The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada, we provide treatment for children with speech and language delay in Toronto and the surrounding areas. We can identify the signs that your child needs a language or speech program. Two of the signs to watch for are delayed milestones and a lack of progress in speech and language development.

Delayed Milestones

Developmental milestones show what children, on average, are capable of at different ages. Of course, a child may miss a milestone and still have normal speech and language development. After all, some children are slower in developing certain skills and faster at developing others. However, these age-related signs could indicate that your child needs treatment for a speech delay and/or a language delay. A communication assessment with a speech-language pathologist can help determine whether your child is experiencing a delay.

  • If your child shows any of these signs, a professional consultation is advised, at which time you can discuss a speech program for your child in Toronto and the GTA:
  • By 12 months, they do not babble, say any words, seem to understand or respond when you talk, or use many gestures
  • By 18 months, they do not say at least 50 words, speak in two-word phrases, or have trouble imitating sounds
  • By two years, they do not use language to express more than immediate needs, they communicate mostly through sounds and pointing, or they show signs of having lost previously established language skills
  • By two-and-a-half years, they still speak in single syllables or do not finish words (such as by dropping final consonants or syllables); you or regular caregivers are unable to understand at least half of what they say; or they speak in an unusual tone (nasal-sounding, for instance)
  • By three years, they speak using only simple two-word phrases and strangers have difficulty comprehending their pronunciation

No Progress in Speech or Language Development

Your child can show speech and language development by learning new words, or by tinkering with the words they already know. For instance, if your child has a teddy bear, they may identify it with the word "bear." However, over time, the way they use that word can change. "Bear" could be said with a different intonation or pitch, suggesting they are asking where their bear is or asking for it. Even though no new words have been added (if they don't ask a full question, for instance), the change in pitch shows your child understands the meaning of what has been expressed. Similarly, a child may go from saying "yewow," to "lellow," to "yellow" as they learn to say the "l" sound. For children who do not show signs of increased vocabulary, such developments should still occur around once a month. If they do not, it could be a sign that your child is experiencing a language or speech delay warranting therapy.

What to Do if Your Child Is Showing Signs of a Language or Speech Delay

If you are worried your child may have a speech and/or language delay, consider bringing them in for a communication assessment at The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada. At our offices in Toronto and across the GTA, we have no waiting lists and our speech-language pathologists can give you a better understanding of where your child's speech or language development stands. Our communication assessments look at receptive language (what the child understands), expressive language (what they can say), nonverbal communication (gestures, body language, and facial expressions), sound development, clarity of speech, and oral-motor status (how well the parts of your child's mouth work together for speech).

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