Does My Child Need Speech Therapy?

Unfortunately, kids don’t come with user manuals. And, even though plenty of research and self-help books exist for parents and caregivers, it can be hard to know what’s “normal” as it relates to a child and when they could use additional help. This is especially true when it comes to speech and language disorders.At Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services in Scottsdale, Arizona, our skilled team of behavioral health experts can help identify whether your child might have language or speech delays and when therapy can help.

Understanding speech and language delays

While these two topics are related and often overlap, they also have significant differences. In general terms, speech describes the verbal use of language and how we articulate words. Language, on the other hand, is the understanding and sharing of communication — either verbally, nonverbally, or through writing.

As a result, if your child has a speech delay, they may share ideas, but the words or phrases may be difficult to understand. But, when a child has a language delay, they may clearly articulate words one at a time, but they may be unable to put them together in a phrase or sentence.

Keep in mind that it’s normal for children to mispronounce things, especially because some sounds don’t fully develop until ages 4-6. However, some signs can indicate the presence of a speech or language disorder.

Signs of speech and language disorders

Just like other developmental milestones, the point when a child starts speaking and learning language can vary for several reasons. Still, there can be clues of an underlying problem present from birth.

Common signs of language disorders include:

  • Birth to 3 months: not playing with others or smiling
  • 4 to 7 months: not babbling
  • 7 to 12 months: not waiving, pointing, or making a lot of sounds
  • 7 to 24 months: not understanding what someone else is saying
  • 12 to 18 months: only saying a few words
  • 16 to 24 months: not putting two words together
  • 2 years: saying less than 50 words
  • 2 to 3 years: having trouble talking and playing with other kids
  • 2-1/2 to 3 years: having problems writing or reading

There are also sounds that can indicate a speech disorder, such as not saying certain letters in words correctly — often sounding like “baby talk” — and being hard to understand.

The benefits of speech therapy

Working with a trained therapist will not only help your child improve their skills, but a therapist will also offer strategies to encourage speech and language development at home. These approaches often include:

  • Increasing communication with your child through talking, singing, and gesturing
  • Reading more to your child, especially books with pictures
  • Using everyday situations to build language and speech, such as pointing out objects around the house or at the grocery store

Even if you have a child with autism who isn’t speaking by age 4 or 5, they can still acquire language skills. In fact, scientists at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders report that in a study of 535 children ages 8-17, nearly half became fluent speakers, and 70% used simple phrases.

If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language skills, we can provide a comprehensive assessment to help identify any deficits and therapy needs. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services today.