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How to know if your child needs a speech-language evaluation

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Every child develops speech and language skills at their own pace. But many parents wonder if their child's development is on track. 

As a Springfield speech-language pathologist (SLP), I meet many parents who say they actually wish they had brought their child in for an evaluation sooner. Not because it's ever "too late" for speech therapy, but because the gains their children make in therapy are so meaningful and have such a noticeable, positive impact on their lives, self-esteem and relationships. 

Have you been wondering whether it's time to ask your pediatrician or health care provider about getting a referral to speech therapy? Here are five common things to consider:

1. Does your child have a hearing loss?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3 out of 1,000 children have some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss, which can be present at birth or acquired sometime after birth due to things like illness or injury, can dramatically affect a child's ability to learn language and express their needs. 

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different for each infant and child, but delayed speech is a common indicator.

2. Is your child’s speech hard to understand?

Speech-language pathologists, also called speech therapists, can help children who struggle to make sounds and pronounce words due to conditions like hearing loss, oral and facial abnormalities and developmental disorders.

3. Is your child over 12 months, but not yet talking?

Most babies begin babbling and making sounds between 3-6 months of age. At 9 to 15 months, most children are starting to speak. If your child is over 12 months old and has yet to say their first word, it could be a good time to schedule a speech-language evaluation. 

4. Does your child have trouble answering questions or following directions?

Many children who have trouble answering questions or following directions actually have underlying differences in the development of their hearing, speech-language skills, cognitive abilities, and/or how they process sensory information.  This can result in undesirable behavior when they are placed under perceived stress.

5. Does your child struggle with transitions and peer interaction?

When deciding whether your child could benefit from a speech-language evaluation, it's helpful to observe how they interact with siblings, peers and other adults. Many conditions affecting speech and language development can make interpersonal interactions and even changes in familiar routines very challenging for a young child. 

Wondering if your child needs a speech-language evaluation?

Remember: it's never too late for a child to undergo a speech-language evaluation. But we do know that the first three to six years of a child's life are a critical time for acquiring speech and language skills. If you have any concerns that your child isn't hitting their speech and language milestones, talk to your doctor. The sooner your concerns are addressed, the sooner you can ensure that your child gets the support they need.

Find a speech-language pathologist at https://www.siumed.org/doctor today! 

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