Does Your Child Need Speech Therapy?
Does your child stutter or mispronounce words? While cute at first, speech development problems are enough to cause many parents concern. Naturally, all parents want their children to be effective and confident communicators in order to be successful in the world. However, most speech pathology professionals will tell you that some mispronunciations or speech impediments are actually quite common up until age six or seven, so it can be hard to tell if a child truly needs therapy or if their speech patterns will develop normally given enough time.
While no parent wants their child to be behind their peers, performance-wise, knowing a little about typical speech development patterns will likely help alleviate many parents concerns. Here is a comprehensive guide to speech development in children that will hopefully help you make decisions about whether your child needs additional testing to recommend speech therapy.
Prior to 1 Year
While it usually takes about a year for a child to begin forming words, they will still naturally use their voices to explore and relate to their environments. We have all heard babies coo and babble, and while you may have just chalked that up to baby-speak, it is actually an important part of their development. Around nine months or so, babies start stringing these seemingly disparate sounds together to emulate the language they have heard their parents use. They may even incorporate multiple tones to say words like mama, dada, or cookie.
Around this age, kids speech should start to develop to incorporate a wider range of sounds (or letters, if you will, like p’s, b’s, m’s, d’s, and n’s). Their imitations of their parents and family members will also become more advanced, although may only be one- or two-word long messages. Usually these words will be almost entirely nouns, like “ball” or “toy”. Children may also start to exhibit signs that they hear and understand simple directions.
By one-and-a-half years, toddlers have a vocabulary of about twenty words, which will increase to fifty or more by the age of two. During this time, kids may even start putting together very simple sentences, like “cow say moo”. They will usually also start identifying common objects whether physical or in photographs, and can listen to and follow directions of up to two steps.
Prior to two years, you may suspect a need for speech therapy if your child does not gesture, prefers gesturing to vocalization, or has trouble imitating the sounds made by family members.
After the two-year mark, parents usually report tremendous gains in their children’s speech, including a rapidly assimilating vocabulary and routinely using three-word or more sentences. By three years, children may even begin to fully comprehend complex instructions, like “put that under your bed”. They will also begin to use descriptive words like big, little, and the basic colors.
At this stage your pediatrician may recommend testing if your child’s speech are merely imitations and not spontaneously produced sounds and words, they repeat the same words over and over, or is exceptionally difficult to understand compared to her peers.
If you suspect that your child may be in need of speech pathology services, you should first schedule a visit with your child’s normal pediatrician. They can help you identify whether your child is or is not on track compared to other children her age and can recommend advanced testing or therapy.