Why you Shouldn’t Wait to Start Speech Therapy:
8 Frequently Asked Questions
What is speech delay?
Speech delay is when a child is behind in their milestones for any of the parts of language, such as receptive and expressive language, social skills (pragmatics), or articulation skills. There are many commonly agreed upon milestones, such as:
- No words by 15 months
- No or few two-three-word combinations by 24 months
- Fewer than 50 words by 24 months
- Difficulty with two or more speech sounds (p,b,n,m,t,d,k,g) or second tier speech sounds at 24 months (s,z,f,j,sh)
Speech delay is extremely common. Some experts (Capone, 2018 – Late Talkers: Why the Wait and See Approach is Outdated) cite that the figure can be as high as 7%. And there may be consequences to waiting to start therapy, as your child’s brain is most pliable and able to learn (neuroplastic) during his or her young years. Our recommendation is, when in doubt – have your child evaluated.
What causes speech delay?
We know that a variety of factors influence speech delay. The most important thing is that it isn’t your fault as the parent and language delay can be helped by speech therapy! Language disorder is heritable. Many parents of late talking children reported that, when they were children, they had language difficulties, had their communication attempts misinterpreted by adults, were self-conscious, and had a difficult time advocating for themselves. Other important risk factors of language delay are: being male, low birthweight, socioeconomic status, number of books in the home, quality of parenting, and time in day-care.
What is social skills training?
Social skills training gives children the skills necessary to interact and communicate with others in ways that are socially appropriate. Socially appropriate actions such as waving, making eye contact, taking perspective, and asking/answering in conversation are much harder for some children than others. And social skill learning starts early, so early intervention is key to build a strong foundation. Life Skills Therapy’s Socially Happy Classes focuses not just on the foundational aspects of social language, but also higher level social language such as taking perspective, social inferencing, and collaborating in a group. These skills often do not come intuitively to our children with social skill and language challenges and are vital for long-term success in career and interpersonal relationships. Our social classes are individual and group-based. We teach children (and adults!) to understand that social skills are fundamental and are built in order to establish and maintain relationships.
How does social skills training help?
Yes, most people who go through the social skills training programs make great strides forward in their ability to communicate with and relate to others. We focus on many of the “hidden rules” of social development and teach kids how to work and play within a group, take perspective, and demonstrate interest in others. We pair children (and adults!) with others that are of similar age and developmental level and teach social relatedness through weekly structured lessons. The small classes consist of 4-6 people, and individual sessions will have a strong focus on caregigver training to generalize the skills to the real world.
Can you come to our home?
Of course! We work with many of the clients that we see right in the comfort of their homes. And research backs up the effectiveness of home-based therapy! Give us a call and we can schedule our initial evaluation and come up with some goals to help your child.
What are some of the biggest red flags in communication development?
- 6 months – doesn’t laugh and squeal, does not look towards new sounds
- 9 months – Has limited to no babbling, difficult to discern if baby is happy or upset
- 12 months – does not point to objects, does not use gestures such as waving or shaking head
- 15 months – has not used first word, does not respond to “no” or “bye bye”
- 18 months – Does not use 6-10 words consistently, does not appear to be a “good listener” or discriminate between sounds.
- 20 months – does not use at least 6 consonant sounds, has a difficult time following directions or “being a good listener”
- 24 months – has a vocabulary of 50 words or fewer, demonstrates decreased interest in social situations
- 36 months – Strangers have a difficult time understanding your child’s speech, does not talk in simple sentences.
In addition speech therapy can help if your child:
- Is a very picky eater, limiting their choices to 3-6 foods or gags on certain textures
- Has difficulty with transitions
- Demonstrates perseverative or repetitive behaviors
- Shows little to no interest in communicating
- Drools excessively
- Stutters for longer than 6 months
- Demonstrates anxious behavior about social situations
- Struggles socially with making friends and fitting in with other kids
Will my child talk?
Yes! In over 95% of the cases of children that we see, children become fluent communicators. The most important factors in language gains are implementing fun and appropriate early intervention, focusing on parent training, and daily fun homework practice/carry-over activities with parents or primary caregivers. We have worked with children with significant physical impairments that keep them from being able to speak, but even these children learn to communicate their wants and needs using sign language and communication devices. Most importantly, we make language learning fun, which makes children want to communicate.
How does insurance work?
We have found that we are able to provide the highest quality service by working directly with and accepting payments from families instead of going through third parties payors such as insurance. As such, we are an out-of-network provider. We provide families with a quarterly superbill which they can submit to their insurance for reimbursement, up to the limits of the plan for speech therapy. We have found that working as such allows us to keep our client’s health records confidential as well, so that it doesn’t go on the insurance “permanent record”.
5 Should Have Been Asked Questions
Why is early intervention important? Can’t I just wait?
In general, the perception is that late talking is largely “self correcting”. However, this is not always the case. Even children who end up being “late bloomers” and not diagnosed with language disorder often still present with difficulty learning vocabulary, difficulty reading, difficulty relating socially, difficulty with verb endings and forming sentences, and difficulty telling stories. Needless to say, these children at times also struggle with social skills and ability to connect and relate to others. Aspects of language such as having limited vocabulary at 24 months may account for difficulty with both vocabulary and memory in adolescence (Late talkers: Do good predictors of outcome exist? Dev Disabil Res Rev 2011; 17(2):141-50; . Rescorla L. Age 17 language and reading outcomes in late-talking toddlers: support for a dimensional perspective on language delay. J Speech Lang Hear Res 2009;52(1):16–30.). In contrast, children that participate in child-centered and play-based therapy (such as Hanen program or Life Skills Therapy) with a strong caregiver focus show strong gains in their early language, leading to more productive and easier language learning throughout their lives. In short, early intervention builds a strong foundation for the language-based life skills needed to be successful.
How can I best support my child in his or her language development?
We recommend a play-based, life skills centered approach that focuses on parent-child interaction using the child’s preferred toys and activities. For example, for a child that likes animals, we may play with the pretend farm set. Depending on the development of the child, we may work on making the animals’ correct sounds, naming farm animals, engaging in routine play (such as going down the slide and talking about it) or even telling a narrative story to work on sentence structure and verbs. There are endless possibilities!
How can I best support my child in his or her social skill development?
Explain social concepts in easy to understand language for your child. For our younger clients, we use phrases like, “think with your eyes” and “keep your body in the group”, as well as encouraging our clients to follow the “group plan”. As kids get older, we help them to understand the “hidden rules” of social curriculum, as well as teaching them to self-regulate better and make “smart guesses” or inferences about their communication partner. As kids become adolescents, we work on body language and non-verbal signals to help the children to fit in with their peers and make friends. We want all of the children that we work with to achieve their highest potential, and would love for all of them to one day have a best friend and ace a job interview!
How soon can we expect see results?
Results vary from child to child. We cannot guarantee that results will occur overnight or over a certain time period. Most of the children we work with do become competent communicators with lots of support, work and home practice. We provide plenty of suggestions and activities to families in order to make it as effortless as possible for you, and teach you to involve language in every aspect of your child’s day to speed along the process.
How can my family and I help my child?
Parents, siblings, and caretakers play a crucial role in the child’s speech development. Using the tips we offer enables you to practice those skills all day, everyday!!