Children develop at different rates and in different ways, especially when it comes to speech and language development. For many children, slight delays in mastering language are normal and resolve over time. For some, however, these delays or development issues are serious enough to warrant a visit to a speech therapist for evaluation and possibly ongoing therapy. To understand when such a visit is warranted, here is an overview of pediatric speech and language evaluation therapy.
What Is Speech Therapy?
Speech-Language Pathologists focus on helping people not just with speaking issues but also with language, social communication, writing and or reading issues, like dyslexia. Anyone from an infant to an elderly person may require a speech-language pathologist. Pediatric speech therapy focuses on those ages 0-18. The ages when speech and language development is crucial are from birth to 5 years old.
For children, there are several "red flags" or indicators that a child may be in need of a speech and language evaluation to help identify speech and language deficits and help them with their speech or language skills. As a child develops, there are certain broad milestones that most children hit. One of the first is described by Jori Harris M.S. CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist at the University of Utah Developmental Assessment Clinic "By three years of age, they should be able to put three to four words together and be intelligible 90% of the time."
Failing to hit this milestone could indicate that the child may have a physical, developmental, hearing, and or speech and language impairment. Says Harris, "The most common cases we see in our clinic are developmental delays which frequently include children with Autism Spectrum Disorder". Besides delays in speech and language development, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder exhibit additional challenges such as social relatedness, unusual behaviors and or sensory dysfunction.
A evaluation with a speech-language pathologist would involve diagnosing speech and language deficits, a treatment plan for future therapy and sometimes recommendations for additional testing by other professionals.
The Benefits of Speech Therapy
Working with a speech therapist may mean outpatient therapy visits after an initial diagnosis. Therapy may include targeted lessons, establishing reinforcement and motivation strategies, as well as providing resources and suggestions for caregivers to complete outside the therapy environment.
Understanding why children struggle with speech or language can go a long way toward helping them succeed in school and in life. According to Ms. Harris, " For the majority of children the earlier children are evaluated and begin intervention, the better the prognosis. For example, If kids can't say their Rs and Ls, it's helpful to get kids in therapy before kindergarten. It will make a difference in how their peers understand them. We want to prevent, reduce or eliminate any additional challenges that children starting kindergarten might have. If we see these kids early enough, we can detect if there are other factors impacting their development."