4 Questions to Consider
One of the most common questions I get as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is “how do I know if my child needs speech therapy?” While I agree that a checklist of developmental milestones is helpful, it can also be overwhelming and dependent on many factors. Instead, I often find parents have their own answer after considering these four questions:
1.What does your gut say?
I listed this as my number one question because I believe parents are the experts on their child. They know their child better than anyone else. I trust that if a caregiver has a concern about how a child is developing, it’s worth my concern too.
2. Does your child stick out in a group of friends?
No one wants to be the last one picked for kickball, but there may be a clue here. Peer groups often give us insight to what is appropriate and expected for their age. Problems with speech, language, and social skills may all be exposed when interacting with same-age peers. Additionally, consider the child’s self-esteem and confidence in a group of peers. Being teased, showing frustration, unusual or inappropriate interactions may be other hints something’s not right.
3. Do they depend on you to meet their needs?
Of course this depends on the child’s age, but typically we expect preschool children to independently complete their daily routines with little help from adults. We want children to be understood and express their wants and needs by at least 4 years of age. If children are dependent on others to complete simple tasks, a referral to a SLP may be appropriate.
4. Is the child safe?
Parents may not think of this question when thinking of speech/language or feeding concerns, but it’s an important one to consider. Again, we expect preschool children to be able to be understood by unfamiliar listeners, express their wants and needs clearly to others. Additionally, preschool children should manage their food safely without the fear of choking. If there was an accident or emergency, would your preschool child be able to talk with an adult and be understood? If not, talk with your pediatrician about speech therapy.
Of course, if there is a known medical diagnosis or event where speech/language, feeding, or hearing is impacted, a SLP is imperative to include in the treatment plan. Concerns vary with the child’s age and ability. School-age children may be identified by teachers or have more apparent academic struggles. Pediatricians may also direct children to a speech pathologist if they have concerns with their development.
Bottom line: If there is any concern, be your child’s advocate in getting help and seek answers to your questions.
When to Seek Help
Many pediatricians continue to recommend “wait and see” when it comes to speech and language. However, SLPs are the experts in speech, language, and swallowing/feeding development. I always recommend to seek help as soon as possible to avoid the dangers of waiting. It may be daunting to begin asking questions about your child. Reassurance comes with answered questions and action plans. There are critical windows of opportunity to respond to children’s needs–waiting may close the door.
If you found yourself being unable to answer these questions easily about your child, consider reaching out to a speech-language pathologist. Visit https://www.asha.org/profind to find a local SLP near you.
At Heart & Soul Speech, we offer free phone consultations to determine whether an evaluation is appropriate and answer all your questions. Contact us today!