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Warning Signs That Your Child Might Need Speech Therapy

Speech and language therapy is one of the most commonly requested services from Happy Hearts. This month we’ll share a bit about what a speech pathologist does and the warning signs that a child should be referred to a speech pathologist. Speech therapy is one of several early intervention services that are provided at no charge in the state of Pennsylvania for qualifying children from birth to age three. If you suspect that your child has a speech delay or disorder, it’s important to get them a free evaluation so they can receive the assistance they need as soon as possible. When a speech or language impairment is identified early, a child can have a much better school experience.

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy addresses speech, language, social communication, and feeding delays or disabilities. Speech pathologists work with families to help their child communicate to the best of their ability by creating and implementing therapy plans and training the family to assist with these plans.

Our staff is trained in using augmentative assistive technology, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and sign language in order to facilitate communication.

Who Can Benefit From Speech Therapy?

There are many reasons a child may struggle with speech or communication. We have worked with children with Autism, Intellectual Disability, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Traumatic Brain Injury, Muscular Dystrophy, Behavioral/Social Disorders, Articulation Disorders, Stuttering, and Processing Disorders.

Our speech therapists and special instructors are also equipped to help children who are hearing impaired, with advanced training in hearing loss related to chronic ear infections, use of hearing aids and cochlear implants, and sign language.

Warning Signs That Your Child Should be Evaluated by a Speech Pathologist

Since every child develops differently, it can be hard to know what’s “normal” - especially when you’re getting conflicting stories from other parents or your great-aunt on Facebook. But according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Linguisystems Milestones Development Guide (Flahive and Lanza, 2012), you should be concerned if your child doesn’t achieve the following benchmarks.

By 6 months:

  • Child doesn’t laugh or squeal

  • Child doesn’t look towards new sounds

By 9 months:

  • Child rarely or never babbles

  • Child doesn’t indicate when they’re upset

By 12 months (1 year):

  • Child doesn’t point to objects

  • Child doesn’t use gestures, such as waving or shaking their head

By 15 months:

  • Child still hasn’t said first word

  • Child doesn’t respond to “no” and “bye-bye” appropriately

By 18 months:

  • Child doesn’t use at least six to ten words consistently

  • Child doesn’t seem to hear well or discriminate between sounds

By 20 months:

  • Child doesn’t use at least six consonant sounds (especially p, b, m, n, w, and h)

  • Child doesn’t follow simple directions

By 24 months (2 years):

  • Child has a vocabulary of less than fifty words

  • Child is less interested in social interactions than they used to be

By 36 months (3 years):

  • Child cannot be understood by family and/or caregivers more than 50% of the time

  • Child cannot correctly pronounce vowels and/or the consonants p, b, m, w in words

  • Child gets consistently frustrated when asked to repeat themselves because others cannot understand them

Any Age:

  • Child produces no meaningful words, or sounds that are only understood by family

  • Sound errors are prevalent but variable (the same child might pronounce "dog" as “dog,” "tog," "gog," and "god")

  • Child is unaware of sound variations or exhibits varying degrees of frustration or anxiety regarding their inability to "control speech"

  • Child gets frustrated or avoids talking due to their speech difficulties

What To Do If Your Child Exhibits These Warning Signs

If you recognize any of these warning signs in your child, it’s likely they'll qualify for free speech and language therapy through the early intervention program. Early intervention helps children develop the skills they need to thrive throughout their lives, and trains and equips parents to be part of this important process. A doctor’s referral ISN'T necessary to seek early intervention services. If you’re located in Berks, Schuylkill, Lebanon, Tioga, or Wayne counties, please email or call 570-573-3293 to schedule a no cost evaluation.

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