When does my child need speech therapy?
There are many reasons why a child would need to see a speech-language pathologist.
It is recommended that instead of a "wait and see" approach, that children be recommended to speech-language pathologists when they are not meeting their milestones. Research has shown that there is a portion (~10-20%) of children who are late talkers. Late talkers are children who have limited vocabulary for their age, but other aspects of development are developing typically.
Although 50-70% of children who are late talkers appear to "catch up", these children continue to have weaker language related skills into adolescence. Additionally, being a late talker is a risk factor for a language disorder. The later that children are identified (e.g., after 2 years of age), the more likely they are to persist in a language delay.
What does this mean for parents? Early intervention! Many studies have shown that parent-implemented intervention results in positive expressive (talking) language gains.
So wait, what are these language milestones?
- At 18 months, we expect children to be using at least 10-15 words. Some common first words including sound effects like "yay", "uh-oh" and "oh-no"! Other words like animal sounds (e.g., moo, meow) also count as first words.
- At 24 months, we expect children to be using at least 50 words and two-word utterances. When children get to around 50-75 words in their vocabulary, they start to combine words together. However, children also need different types of words in their vocabulary like verbs, adjectives and prepositions. If you find that your child only has nouns in their vocabulary, start modelling different words!
- By 3 years of age, we expect children to use three word phrases all the time, start using different grammatical elements such as present progressive (-ing), plurals, and location words.
- By 4 years of age, children typically use sentences all the time to communicate, have learn a variety of grammatical elements, use a variety of pronouns and tell very simple stories.
- By 5 years of age, children are stringing together complex sentences, telling longer stories, and using most grammatical elements correctly.
We want to start early because children's brains are more "plastic". This is fancy word for they learn easier when they are younger. Their brains can adapt easier compared to when they are older. We can create opportunities for children to learn while they are young so that they don't miss out on these opportunities!
However, it's never too late! The truth is, many families start speech therapy when their child is 3...4...5...6...7...and children can still learn new things. They are so resilient and open to learning new things. We also keep it fun in our practice which helps!
If you child is not meeting these milestones or you are concerned about your child's speech and language development, book your free consultation with us to get started!
Singleton, N.C. (2018). Late talkers: why the wait and see approach is outdated. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 65(1), 13-29.